Dear Mock Trial Coaches and Friends,
This competition season has come to a close, and we are already receiving requests for information about next year. Will mock trial occur? What will the rules be? How will we address the possibility of a continued COVID-19 outbreak? These questions come from the heart, and we understand. We, too, love mock trial, and it is every bit part of our lives, as it is our students' lives, and yours.
We start with the most important and basic truth: mock trial will continue. We are writing the case for next year, it will be ready for your students on time, and we will be proceeding with all mock trial activities to the greatest extent possible, as we do every year.
With that said, the details are not so easy to predict from where we sit today. Whether the district, regional, and/or state competitions will be virtual or in-person and - either way - what changes might be required to our rules regarding timing, spectators, dress, and many other subjects will all have to be decided. But those things cannot be decided today. Too much is unknown about where this virus will be in terms of its spread, about our capacity to prevent or treat it, and about how schools will be functioning come January and February.
But we are working on these issues, as are our colleagues in other states and our national partners. At its annual state coordinator meeting on May 7, the National High School Mock Trial Championship announced that the National tournament it will occur next year, either physically in Evansville, Indiana or virtually, via videoconferencing software. As many of you know, some national competitions were conducted virtually this year, and they can serve as a model for mock trial, albeit after accounting for mock trial's many eccentricities.
The National board of directors is organizing an effort in conjunction with state coordinators nationwide to compose rules for a partial or complete virtual competition, and it will be reporting its best practices guidance around Labor Day. We will take that guidance and use it to inform rules for a virtual mock trial competition in Pennsylvania, which we hope to publish in September or early October. Even then, though, flexibility and resilience will be the bywords, because those rules may change as circumstances develop, as technology improves, and/or as other states - or our own districts and regions - complete virtual competitions and can provide lessons learned. We will do our best to stick to whatever framework we articulate in September or October, but we will not be wedded to a single framing if problems with it emerge or better methods are found.
Nor will every region of the state necessarily be affected equally or have the same infrastructure from which to address local challenges. As you know, our rules already permit Regional Coordinators to apply for Executive Committee approval to modify competition rules to account for local preferences and conditions. To the extent that Regions need to employ this rule as a "safety valve" for local issues or pressures, we anticipate that they will let us know what they need and why and to work with us on common-sense solutions that fit their needs.
We all wish that these issues did not need to be considered. We all look forward to a time when this kind of preparation will not be necessary. And we all wish that we had these answers already. But, for now, we appreciate your patience as we face these challenges as a mock trial community in the manner that best ensures that every Pennsylvania school can participate in a Pennsylvania competition as much like the one we all love as possible during the 2020-21 competition season.
~Mock Trial Executive Committee