SPELLBOUND: After four consecutive trips to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, eighth-grader Kavya Shivashankar, 13, spelled her way to the top May 28 to take home the 2009 title and more than $40,000 in prizes. Shivashankar, who hails from Olathe, Kan., where her father is her spelling coach, won by correctly spelling Laodicean, which means lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics.
ORDERED: A judge ruled May 26 that Daniel Hauser, the 13-year-old Minnesota teen who fled with his mother to avoid court-mandated chemotherapy, can remain in his parents' custody if they ensure he receives medical care to treat his Hodgkin's lymphoma. The Hauser family had argued that chemotherapy violated their religious convictions and opted instead to use natural alternatives, prompting authorities to intervene on allegations of medical neglect.
REJECTED: The Texas Senate declined to re-appoint State Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy, a conservative Christian who had pushed for the state's public schools to teach the weaknesses of Darwinism. Opponents claimed McLeroy, who was appointed in 2007, caused disunity by dragging the board into divisive cultural battles over issues like evolution and sex education.
RENOUNCED: A popular Miami priest, who was relieved of his duties after he was photographed kissing a woman on a Florida beach, announced on May 28 that he left the Roman Catholic Church to join the Episcopal Church, where priests can marry. Father Alberto Cutié, 40, had apologized to Catholic parishioners for breaking his vow of celibacy but admitted he was torn between his church commitment and his 35-year-old girlfriend, Ruhama Buni Canellis, whom he now plans to marry.
DASHED: Susan Boyle, the dowdy but plucky Scottish woman who appeared on Britain's Got Talent and stunned the world with her rendition of Les Miserables' "I Dreamed a Dream," had her dreams dashed May 30 after viewers handed first place to Diversity, a street dance group. This isn't the end of the road for Boyle, however. Judge Simon Cowell said he has a "detailed plan" to make the 48-year-old an international star.
DIED: Millvina Dean, who as a 2-month-old baby was the youngest passenger to escape the sinking Titanic, died May 31. Dean, 97, was the last living survivor of the legendary liner, which sank in April 1912 and claimed more than 1,500 lives.