An Ohio girl whose first-place finish — and a resulting chance to compete in a nationwide competition — was taken away and given to a boy who finished third was invited to take part in another national event.
Shania Clifford was the first girl to win her state’s masonry competition and hoped to test her abilities at the SkillsUSA national competition next week in Louisville, Kentucky — but she saw a Facebook post by the third-prize winner announcing that he would go instead.
“I figured they would actually contact my school first and actually explain, but they had called the boy instead,” Clifford said. “The way that I found out was over Facebook. The boy, he had posted a status saying that he got a call from the Skills representative saying that he will be competing at nationals.”
A spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Education said scores were inaccurately entered after the judges filled out their forms, and Clifford was incorrectly named the winner.
The 17-year-old’s story gained national attention after a report by the Columbus Dispatch — and garnered an invitation to compete in the Mason Contractors Association of America’s convention next year.
“I figured it’d be a great opportunity to right a wrong,” said Tim O’Toole, a spokesman for the trade association.
The teen said she’s happy to take part in the trade association event.
“I’m so excited !!!” she said on Facebook. “Las Vegas will be seeing me next year in January !!!”
Clifford, who just completed her junior year at Scioto County Career Technical Center, and her teacher are disappointed and angry that SkillsUSA has never contacted either of them to explain what happened — or to even notify them of the change.
“That’s been the whole conflict,” said Larry Moore, the teen’s instructor. “It’s just like they shut us down. It’s like they’re trying to hide something.”
SkillsUSA instead contacted Clifford’s school last month to notify administrators of a grievance filed in the statewide competition.
“I wasn’t sure if I was still competing because they was only notified about the grievance,” Clifford told WSAZ-TV. “Nothing else was said or explained. They just said the scores were miscalculated, and there was no further explaining from that.”
A spokeswoman said the Department of Education followed protocol by notifying the school of the scoring error, which she said had inflated the scores for several students — including Clifford, who initially won the competition by 72 points.
Clifford suspects her title may have been stripped because she was a girl who won a traditionally male-dominated trade.
“I kind of do feel discriminated against, like it was a gender issue,” she said. “I was a female and I was also a junior that had won state, and the boy that is now taking my spot, he’s a senior, and I just feel like he didn’t like being beaten by a girl.”
Watch this video report posted online by WSAZ-TV: