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Sanford teen not guilty of lunchbox weapons charge

Posted May 11, 2011
Updated May 12, 2011

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— A high school student who was suspended last year for having a paring knife in her lunchbox has been found not guilty of a misdemeanor weapons charge stemming from the October incident.

Ashley Smithwick, 17, of Sanford, said staff at Southern Lee High School 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.

A basketball and soccer player who takes college-level courses, Smithwick was charged with misdemeanor possession of a weapon on school grounds and was suspended for the rest of the school year.

She is completing her coursework online through Central Carolina Community College.


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  • domotamasi May 13, 2011

    I think her father framed her.

  • james27613 May 12, 2011

    Anyone know how much money it cost the State to bring this case to trial?

    Add to that the cost of the student's lawyer.

    Did you know that a paper plate can be a deadly weapon?

  • Peachtree May 12, 2011

    That's her story and she's sticking to it -- oh well!

  • Sunshine25 May 12, 2011

    Zero tolerance means ZERO. If she wasn't a basketball and soccer player who took college-level courses would we still believe the "lunchbox switch" story?

  • hunt36 May 12, 2011

    move on this is so old and drawn out!!

  • hunt36 May 12, 2011

    i agree pickanotherID I think she knew it but got caught and that is the story she told!

  • methinks May 12, 2011

    Until you are in the shoes of the individual and/or family of a student that was a victim of the "zero tolerance" rule, then you just don't know. Several years ago, my nephew went camping over the weekend. He used his school backpack. When he went to school on Monday he dropped his backpack and his small knife(3" long open)fell out. He grabbed it and shoved it back in, but another student saw the knife and went and told a teacher. He was suspended for a year. Again, no major discipline problems, mistakenly did not completely clean out his bag, etc. So let me tell you, I would have been LIVID if this young lady didn't get the same punishment. Do I agree with Zero Tolerance, NO. But it is there and it should be applied accordingly. Should they do away with it. YES. There are several students in our state that have been a victim of this policy and they all feel the same. Until it is changed, it must be applied accordingly.

  • westernwake1 May 12, 2011

    In regards to suing the school system or officials for their actions - due to state laws it is very difficult to sue any government entity in North Carolina for financial compensation in this type of situation. It is likely that you could sue to be reinstated in the school - but it is a little late for that - the school year is nearly done and women's soccer season is in state play-offs.

    Now if you had an accident on school grounds (e.g. something fell on you and you got hurt) then you could sue for financial compensation - but this type of case is handled by insurance companies and very different then suing government officials for their poor decision making and lack of common sense.

  • PickAnotherID May 12, 2011

    "If she realized that she had the knife by mistake, she could have taken it to administrators and explained her situation which would have possibly had different results."

    According to the story, that wasn't an available option since she didn't know the knife was there until after it was found during the search of multiple lockers for drugs.

  • pinehorse May 12, 2011

    I guess this is part of Lee County's new initiative to bring frivilous prosecution to all of its productive young citizens. Her civil suit should net her enough for college and then some.