Student gets a second chance in Fresno County spelling bee

FRESNO, Calif.

Sierra first made headlines several weeks ago when the judges told her she would not advance to Fresno County's Spell-Off because her answer was incorrect.

Turns out the judges misspelled the word on their lists, and after several appeals she was finally allowed back in to Thursday's competition.

On Thursday, Selma's star speller made it to the top eleventh spot in the Fresno County competition, but was eventually knocked out in the fifth round with the word "laxity."

Sierra Shoemaker said, "I wanted to spell it like lactose, but instead it was like laxative."

Still it was quite a feat for the sixth grade student.

Renee Shoemaker, Sierra's mom said, "She almost didn't make it to this point because of a mistake that someone else had made so for them to right the wrong was tremendous."

At the Selma School District Spelling Bee earlier this month, the 12-year-old girl spelled the word "braille" correctly, but was told by the judges, she included one too many "l's."

"I wanted to argue, but you really don't argue with the word master," said Sierra.

ABC30 asked, "And why is that?"

Sierra replied, "It's just not the thing to do. Yeah, you could get in trouble for it."

The error, even though it wasn't hers, eliminated her from advancing to the county competition. So Selma School District officials stepped in and fought on her behalf.

"It wasn't just her teacher and her principal," said Renee. "It was the superintendent, it was the spelling bee coordinator, it was everyone in the district that went to bat for her because initially the county said no, but they appealed and they eventually got her in."

Pamela McGee with the Fresno County Office of Education said, "Do you think they made the right decision? I think any time we have a decision that's inclusive rather than exclusive and it's great as long as it's fair for all, and all involved understand why that decision was made."

Even though she didn't win the whole thing, Sierra says she was glad to be given a second chance.

Sierra added, "I was nervous a lot of the time, but I had a lot of fun."

While the focus was on Sierra, it was Fresno Unified's Darian Marshall who won first place and will now advance to the state competition.

The Manchester Gate sixth grader was asked to spell words such as sauerkraut, succumb, and criterion, but it was the word ominous that crowned Marshall the county champion.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.