Hold a Modified 2020 Scripps National Spelling Bee or Extend Eligibility for 8th Graders

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EDIT: We have received signatures from at least 8 past national champions from various eras, nearly 100 SNSB finalists and semifinalists, and hundreds of SNSB spellers. 

EDIT #2: We have also received support from several anonymous employees of both ESPN and the E.W. Scripps company.

On April 21, 2020, the Scripps National Spelling Bee announced that the national finals are completely cancelled for the year due to COVID-19. This is the first time the national finals have been cancelled since WWII, and since WWII, bee preparations for the highest level spellers have become much more rigorous and time-consuming. It’s not uncommon to see a speller who says they’ve gone through the dictionary multiple times. Spellers sacrifice their social lives, other activities, and many hours to prepare for the bee. 

When I was in middle school, I competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee myself. My eighth grade year alone, I spent multiple thousands of hours making Quizlets, quizzing on words with my dad, and learning roots and language patterns. Even since then, preparations have gotten more rigorous and the bee has gotten more competitive, as evidenced by last year’s Octochamps. Speaking from experience, the Bee is the most important part of many of these kids’ lives. Having their last shot cut off in eighth grade isn’t just devastating, it’s unjust. Not only have they spent thousands of hours working for this, their parents have also likely made sacrifices to help them—whether that’s time spent assisting them or money spent on prep software or coaching. It’s not an easy endeavor for anyone in the family of a speller. Furthermore, Bee Week isn’t just important for the competition. I met people at Bee Week with whom I’m still in contact four years later, and the memories I have with them are incredibly precious to me. Eighth graders, especially those who would’ve been first-time competitors, deserve to have this as well. That is why, joint with many of what would have been this year's top-tier eighth grade competitors, we are asking that Scripps hold a modified online or socially-distanced bee later this year or else create a one-time, one-year eligibility extension for this year’s eighth graders.

I understand that there are issues with this—letting kids move on into high school activities is important, and there are concerns about the fairness of letting younger spellers compete against ninth graders. If any form of a bee is possible later this year, that problem could be avoided, but if not, the fact of the matter is that young spellers have many years left. This year’s eighth graders simply don’t, which is why they deserve either an eligibility extension or a bee this year. There may not be a perfect solution, but anything at all that Scripps can do to give eighth graders a chance is better than the nothing that they're currently getting. Thank you for your consideration—I have nothing but the utmost respect for the Scripps National Spelling Bee and everything positive they’ve brought to my life and the lives of others.