"We've had many complaints from parents and psychologists who say being ejected from a spelling bee can be a traumatic experience for a child," said Bee Chairwoman Sally Fredericks, noting that the organization received a petition with more than 50,000 signatures from the American Parents United Against Competition (APUAC)."It does horrible things to children's self-esteem when they spell a word wrong," noted APUAC spokesperson Mitzy Bennington. "If they're allowed to spell words incorrectly without getting ejected from the competition, they get the experience of participating without all those bad feelings that come along with not winning.
"It's important that we leave these children with the impression that they're smart and important and special, even if they're not," noted Bennington.
Under the new rules, participants will each be given a word to spell. The moderator will not indicate whether they spelled it correctly or incorrectly, saying instead, for example, "Great job, Johnny! You're the best!" Then the participant will return to his or her seat.
After five rounds of play using those guidelines, the event will be declared completed and each participant will be awarded a trophy exactly the same size and weight of all the other participants' trophies.
"This way every student goes home feeling like they participated in something special, even if they're not sure exactly what," said Bennington.