Education

School board may discuss Sanford student's suspension

Posted December 30, 2010
Updated December 31, 2010

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— In the wake of national attention garnered by a Sanford student suspended over a paring knife, the Lee County Board of Education has called an emergency meeting for Friday morning to discuss a student disciplinary issue.

Ashley Smithwick, 17, said Tuesday that she was suspended from Southern Lee High School in October after school personnel found a small paring knife in her lunchbox. She was charged recently with misdemeanor possession of a weapon on school grounds.

Smithwick, a basketball and soccer player who takes college-level courses, said school personnel found the knife while searching the belongings of several students for drugs. She said she mistakenly took her father's lunchbox to school, noting that they have identical lunchboxes and that he often packs a paring knife to slice an apple at work.

Lee County Schools Superintendent Jeff Moss issued a statement Wednesday to say that the 3-inch-long knife was found in Smithwick's purse, not her lunchbox. He also denied her claim that she had been suspended for the rest of the school year.

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

Ashley Smithwick paring knife School board may discuss Sanford student's suspension

A disciplinary contract signed last month by Smithwick, her mother, Southern Lee High Principal Bonnie Almond and Moss states, however, that Smithwick cannot "physically access SLHS campus for the remainder of the 2010-2011 school year."

The contract also calls for her to complete her English and pre-calculus classes through an online program offered by Southern Lee High and the rest of her classes at Central Carolina Community College through an agreement between the high school and the college.

"If she was an actual enrolled student, then why is she not allowed to access the school campus or use any of the resources that she would need for classes?" her mother, Heidi Smithwick, asked Thursday.

Heidi Smithwick said she has tried repeatedly to call Moss since her daughter's suspension to discuss the situation but hasn't been able to reach him.

"Two months later, we receive a criminal summons for the paring knife," she said.

She said she and her husband never wanted the media attention for their daughter's situation. They only wanted to resolve the matter with school officials.

"I do feel it is my responsibility to protect her and salvage some sort of future that she could have," Heidi Smithwick said.

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  • rroadrunner99 Dec 31, 2010

    I wonder, how many teachers were searched on that day? They are not perfect by any mean's. I think the County School Board has put their foot in their mouth and now they have to swallow their leg and are trying to back pedal. if they don't think they did wrong, why was an emergency meeting called all of a sudden?

  • Mike in NC Dec 31, 2010

    As for the criminal summons...look at the date on the paper. I would give you even money that it was taken out within a few days of the event. It simply must be served before the court date on the paper, not delievered immediately. I'll bet if the news did their homework they would find that the paper was taken out within days and just served on the young lady. Happens all the time in the court process.

    I have to agree with the school on this one and have to agree with the superitendant that to have the news people ask him specific questions about a specific student is paramount to them trying to get him to violate that student's rights.

  • Mike in NC Dec 31, 2010

    Does anyone truly believe that even if she had intentions to do harm with this knife, that she would have told authorities that. The time to fight this was before they signed and agreed to the contract with the school. She carried the knife by mistake, fine. She obviously found it to move it from the look-a-like lunch box to her purse. If she is as good a student as the story says, then she would know the rules on weapons and would have immediately taken it to someone in authority at the school.

    I wish her well with her online courses and college work. Probably getting a better education now that she was in that terrible school everyone is describing. Could be the best thing that happened to her education wise if the school is that bad.

  • Mike in NC Dec 31, 2010

    Not school policy but state law says she cannot possess the weapon on campus. NCGS 14-269(d) say: (d)It shall be a Class 1 misdemeanor for any person to possess or carry, whether openly or concealed, any BB gun, stun gun, air rifle, air pistol, bowie knife, dirk, dagger, slungshot, leaded cane, switchblade knife, blackjack, metallic knuckles, razors and razor blades (except solely for personal shaving), firework, or any sharp‑pointed or edged instrument except instructional supplies, unaltered nail files and clips and tools used solely for preparation of food, instruction, and maintenance, on educational property.

    It also gives her an immediate out if she accidently takes it or finds it on campus by turning it in to authorities, not moving from a look alike lunch box to a purse.

    As for her being a registered student and suspended, for her to be taking on-line classes though the school, she must be a registered student, you can be barred from the campus and still be a student in an

  • pwpoe Dec 31, 2010

    "How could she get an education there if she wasn't allowed on the campus???"

    She is taking online classes through the high school - that's how. That's also how she is "enrolled."

  • amyrn Dec 31, 2010

    Why are the chances astronomical? I would say there's a 50% chance you could switch lunch bags......there's only two of the lunch bags.....so, you have a one in two chance...it's not like there were 10 lunch bags and she picked the one with a knife..so I think her story is plausible. And to the person with the son that played baseball..all I can say is my sympathies go out to him.

  • Milkman Dec 31, 2010

    In reference to the email from the Lee County board member, I guess they have not seen the Disciplinary Contract signed by the Principal and Superintendent. Seems the board member doesn't know all the facts.

    I hope this incident ends with an unemployed Superintendent and Principal, 1 child back in school, on campus, and charges dropped.

    If her SAT scores are good enough, she should get an acceptance to any UNC system school she wants to attend.

  • Made In USA Dec 31, 2010

    Interesting email reply below, giving hope that Ashley will soon and rightfully be back in school IN PERSON!!!

    Link to reply from Lee County Board member is promising...
    http://www.simplexpoolcare.com/downloads/Board Reply.PNG

  • mikea3 Dec 30, 2010

    Here is the email reply from one of the board members yesterday: http://www.simplexpoolcare.com/downloads/Board Reply.PNG

  • emeraldangeleyes Dec 30, 2010

    I sense jealous students are on this board, by the way they are typing and the abuse of the caps lock. If it were you or your family in this situation, you wouldn't be calling for punishment to the fullest extent.

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