St. Joseph, Mo. Seventh-grader Morgan Brown thought her dream to compete in the national spelling bee was about to come true when she won her regional contest.
But her family found out this week that her school was not registered with the Scripps National Spelling Bee, disqualifying her for the May competition in Washington, D.C.
Her father said Morgan, who has had to adapt her learning skills to cope with a vision disorder, has dreamed of competing in the national spelling bee since she was 9.
"The first thing we have to do is try to explain to an innocent child how a legal interpretation of an (unclear) application has now disqualified her," father Jim Brown said. "We will definitely make sure she understands that this is not a reflection on her efforts."
The problem is that Morgan attends North Platte Junior High School, which wasn't registered, a fact school officials and the bee's organizers didn't know at the time of the regional competition on March 8. Schools must register with the organization and pay a $99 fee.
Scripps officials discovered the error Monday and told the regional spelling bee organizers that it was their responsibility to ensure their winner was eligible for the national bee.
"Our rules are such that there just isn't a way out of this," said Paige Kimble, the national bee's director. She said the organization has had to send out similar letters to "a couple" other competitors.
North Platte Superintendent Francis Moran said his staff would keep working to find a way to get Morgan into the national contest.