Meghan Reynolds can compete in the Avon Grove spelling bee after all.

The Avon Grove school board voted unanimously last night to make an exception to a district policy and let the 12-year-old home-schooled student participate in the contest at Fred S. Engle Middle School.

Meghan, mother Kim Reynolds, and many family supporters had contended that the seventh grader from southern Chester County had the right to take part in the first round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee at the school because of a state law that went into effect early last year. It says districts must allow home-schooled students to participate in public-school extracurricular activities.

Two state senators who sponsored that legislation said this week that in their view, the law covered activities like the bee. And the Home School Legal Defense Association, a nonprofit in Virginia, threatened legal action if the district did not let Meghan compete.

District officials had maintained that because the bee's first round is held in the classroom, it is an academic - not an extracurriclar - activity and therefore not covered by the law. They pointed out that Meghan could take part in the Scripps bee through a countywide home-school spelling bee next month in Exton.

Last night, president William Pew said the board still backed the administration's contention and its solicitor's view that the law did not mandate participation in the classroom. But he said the board made an exception because the law was "poorly written and ambiguous."

Kim Reynolds thanked the board, but told members that she thought they were wrong in saying the law didn't cover the classroom bee. And she said Meghan wanted to compete "in our community," not through the home-school bee. "I don't want them to think they are doing us a favor," she said after the meeting. "They still need to review their policy. I don't think it is right."

Contact staff writer Dan Hardy

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