Thursday, February 09, 2006

When Spelling Bee Contestants Get Stung

A Reno, Nevada eighth grader was the victim of a bad call in a recent spelling bee:
Parents of an O'Brien Middle School eighth-grader are demanding an instant replay of the Washoe County Spelling Bee after their daughter was eliminated despite spelling a word correctly.

"I'm a momma bear with her bear claws out," Cindy Beckman said. "Spellers and academic children don't get all the accolades that the sports kids do. This is one of their few chances to shine, to get attention and look what happens."

Organizers of the bee -- which includes public, private and home-schooled students -- said they would not grant eighth-grader Sara Beckman another chance even though she had spelled "discernible" correctly.

Beckman's parents did not follow the rules of the bee and protest the judges' mistake immediately after it was made, Washoe County School District spokesman Steve Mulvenon said.

Cindy Beckman and stepfather Jeff Wood waited until the bee was completed to file their protest. The parents said they were unaware of the rule. Bee organizers said rules were announced during the Tuesday event at the University of Nevada, Reno.

"We were trying to be respectful by not interrupting," Wood said. "Sara started crying because she knew that she had the word right. Her teacher was saying, "Hey, this (judges' decision) is not right." Cindy is saying, "Hey this is not right." We rushed down to check a dictionary and came right back to let them know, and they still would not change it."

Sara Beckman finished third but the judges' mistake denied her a shot at first place, her mother said.

"I'll take this to the U.S. Supreme Court," Cindy Beckman said. "I will take this to the International Court of law to fight for my baby's rights."

Mulvenon said "it would be a poor use of taxpayer resources to defend a lawsuit about a spelling bee."

"I would hope that rather than taking legal action, that the parents would come in and talk about their concerns and see if we can find a way to resolve this issue," Mulvenon said. "We would be more than happy to meet with them."

Sara Beckman said she would endure the pressure of an extra round for the chance to win the championship.

"I really do want another chance," she said. "If I had gotten the word wrong, it would be OK, but this is just not fair."

Judges do not deny their mistake but must follow the bee's rule of a timely protest, Mulvenon said.

"She (Sara) spelled the word correctly, that is not in question," Mulvenon said. "The issue is that there is a way and a process to do a timely challenge, and nobody challenged it until after the fact."

"The analogy that I would give, in the NFL, if the coach is going to throw a challenge flag, they have got to do it before the next play begins," Mulvenon said. "Once you go beyond that point, you can't go back."

Cindy Beckman said bee organizers showed her more than three pages of rules and said it would be difficult for any spectator or parent to absorb the rules before or during the event.

"All I want is for them to give her another chance," Cindy Beckman said. "This is her last year for the spelling bee."
Sadly, our junior high school here in California's "Imperial" valley doesn't participate in spelling bees, academic decathlons, or any other "intellectual" competitions as they are said to be "elitist."

But we do have sports-a-plenty with basketball, softball, soccer, and volleyball teams traveling to other schools (during school hours) in order to compete.
See this week's Carnival Of Education right here and our latest education-related posts over there.