Education

School officials deny Sanford student's story of suspension

Posted December 29, 2010
Updated December 30, 2010

Map Marker  Find News Near Me

— Lee County Schools officials say a Sanford student's claim that she was given a long-term suspension from her high school after personnel found a knife in her lunchbox is false.

Ashley Smithwick, 17, of Sanford, told WRAL News on Tuesday that she was suspended from Southern Lee High School in October after school personnel found a small paring knife in her lunchbox.

Smithwick said personnel found the knife while searching the belongings of several students, possibly looking for drugs. She said the lunchbox really belonged to her father, Joe Smithwick, who packs a paring knife to slice his apple. He and his daughter have matching lunchboxes.

“It’s just an honest mistake. That was supposed to be my lunch because it was a whole apple,” he said on Tuesday. 

Lee County Schools Superintendent Jeff Moss said in a statement on Wednesday that the 3-inch-long knife was found in the Smithwick's purse, not her lunchbox. The search was conducted on Oct. 20 after a faculty member at the school discovered a student on campus with marijuana.

Moss also denied Smithwick's claim that she was issued a long-term suspension over the incident. 

"She is currently enrolled as a student at the school," Moss said. 

Smithwick told WRAL News that she was initially given a 10-day suspension, then received notice that she was suspended the rest of the school year.

"Over two months after the event, it is a mystery to us that the Smithwick’s concerns were not brought to our attention by the family through normal appeal procedures prior to going to the press," Moss said.

Smithwick said she is completing her coursework online through Central Carolina Community College.

This month, she was charged with misdemeanor possession of a weapon on school grounds. 

196 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • pokylz Dec 31, 6:23 p.m.

    gwally you stated, "Little girl....welcome to the REAL world of government run schools with government paid bureaucrats that have ALL authority NO responsibility....but they ARE unionized for THEIR own protection.....!!!!"

    Teachers and school administrators are state employees in NC. It is in the state charter that no state employee may be a member of a union. Therefore, you are inaccurate in your statement that the teachers are unionized.

    However, this does not mean that there is not a very strong "good ol' boys" mentality in the schools. It is alive and well.

    Teachers, principals and superintendents are human and are capable of lying just as priests lie and civilians lie. The girl and her parents may be lying. We don't know, we weren't there. The truth will come out.

  • 23tony Dec 31, 2:43 p.m.

    "it is a mystery to us that the Smithwick’s concerns were not brought to our attention by the family through normal appeal procedures prior to going to the press"

    I can't speak for Lee county, but if it's anything like Johnston county schools, the "normal appeal procedure" takes months and accomplishes nothing.

  • Mike in NC Dec 31, 11:19 a.m.

    The school system is not coming forward with any type of documents in this case regarding this young lady because she has rights that woul dbe violated if they did. Kind of makes it a one way street for them. They can be belittled and abused in the press, but cannot legally respond, or then a law suit is in order.

    Google North Carolina General Statute 14-269.2(d). It is a state law, not a school policy that was violated. Maybe the concerned parents will sign a release for their daughter's school records...I am sure that I would not want the media pouring through all of my child's school history...good or bad. I am wondering why they just sat at home waiting for a phone call instead of signing the contract and not utilizing the appeals process that is in place. Guess it is easier to create an uproar by calling Five on Your Side than it is to work within the system to right a wrong if one has been done. Just my opinion. Also two side to every story...the truth somewhere in the middle.

  • rsmith6120 Dec 31, 11:11 a.m.

    Sorry.. in the last sentence of my post, I mistakenly put in nor for and.

    See.. We all are capable of making mistakes..

  • rsmith6120 Dec 31, 10:37 a.m.

    This whole thing looks like a fast unthoughtful reaction to the situation and now they (the school) is trying to cover their tracks. This girl doesn't seem to be a victim of bullying or a member of a gang. She looks to be very involved academically, with sports and have a good social presence. The character of the child should be taken into account. This looks very much like an honest mistake. I know I have made a few. I know my children have made a few in their rush to get out the door to get to school. Note it, learn from it, make improvements to the system to help this from not happening again and move on... I am sure this girl nor her friends have all learned so there is a step in the right direction..

  • hunt36 Dec 30, 7:24 p.m.

    I am tired of hearing about it how about this HEY PUT ON YOUR BIG GIRL PANTIES TAKE YOUR MEDICINE YOU MESSED UP AND TAKE WHAT YOU DESERVE NEXT TIME PAY ATTENTION, AND BESIDES I THOUGHT THAT TAKING W WEAPON ON SCHOOL PROPERTY WAS A FELONY!

  • Pseudonym Dec 30, 3:18 p.m.

    Quote from WheresTheTardis: "Have heard the parents of the girl have produced the document of suspension that refutes everything the school officials are saying."

    Photoshop.

    Conspiracy theory time: Maybe that's why it took the Smithwicks 2 months to "recieve" the document from Lee County Schools. It took them that long to figure out how to scan Lee County Schools letterhead, any necessary signatures, Position them on the page in Photoshop, and type up the document.

    This is the same thing that led to Dan Rather's downfall.

  • delilahk2000 Dec 30, 3:04 p.m.

    HOT HUGGER99, I COULD NOT HAVE SAID IT BETTER MYSELF. YOU HAVE SAID IT FOR ME ALSO, SO ELOQITLEY. THANK YOU

  • delilahk2000 Dec 30, 3:00 p.m.

    DEUTSCHGIRL. I'M NOT ANGRY JUST STATING A FACT.

  • gnewsome1 Dec 30, 2:59 p.m.

    The only FACT known by us IGNORANT folks is that the Superintendant belatedly issued a statement. All else is conjecture, speculation and opinion. Guess IDOGPHART knows everything, including his assertion that the girl lied. Kudos to WRAL for bringing this matter out. Don't think we have heard the last of it.

More...