The wrong lunchbox

A North Carolina girl who accidentally took her father’s lunchbox to school has been suspended for the rest of her senior year: Dad had packed a small paring knife to eat an apple.

Ashley Smithwick, 17, of Sanford, a top student and soccer star, hadn’t been in trouble before. She now faces misdemeanor charges for bringing a weapon on campus. That could end her hopes for a soccer scholarship. “When you have a criminal record no school’s going to look at you,” she said. Smithwick  is taking online courses through Central Carolina Community College to earn her diploma.

Lee County Superintendent Jeff Moss told the Sanford Herald that it’s up to the principal to determine a student’s “true intent.”

“Bottom line is we want to ensure every child feels safe on our campus.”

A commenter writes:

“Let’s have the students feel safe. How about letting them feel like their entire lives and livelihood aren’t at risk at your institution from an honest mistake. You are ruining this child’s life and future because some bonehead can’t recognize an honest mistake.”

Close the school, writes Instapundit.  Children aren’t safe from stupid school officials.

Update:  The superintendent says a three-inch knife was found in Smithwick’s purse.  On PJ Media, Bryan Preston has a photo of the “purse,” which is a BYO brand lunch tote.  The school also says Smithwick is enrolled at the school. But she’s banned from campus. 

About Joanne


  1. “Zero tolerance” = “zero common sense”. An honors student with a clean record and a small paring knife is no threat to student safety.

  2. Objects, of whatever type, are not the problem; people are the problem. I attended a school where it was common for kids to have shotguns or rifles in their car/truck during hunting season, so they could hunt before or after school, and there was never an issue with the practice in the 12 years I was in the school. Pocketknives, including the Swiss Army type, were everywhere; I had a small one on my keychain for decades. No problem. Separate those kids whose behavior indicates real potential for problems. Ditto for the TSA and the travelling public.

  3. Since this case is hitting media, I’m sure the colleges where student in question received scholarships at, surely realize that this accident wasn’t her fault. A mistake like this could happen to anyone.

    Even though it’s people who are to blame and not the objects that are too blame, that doesn’t mean that we should let people come to school with loaded guns or board planes with pistols. Rules are there for a reason.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    Actually, this is a necessary action.
    Suppose some trouble-making punk is found with a couple of big switchblades. Can’t throw him out if you didn’t throw Ashley out. Especially, but not necessarily, if he is a member of an Accredited Victim Group.
    The differences–he’s got a record of troublemaking and switchblades are ‘way different from a paring knife–are irrelevant, given any good–hmmmm–lawyer.
    Remember that Arne Duncan said he was going to be looking at schools with racially disproportionate disciplinary actions?
    This school is punching up the white numbers, just in case.
    I wish I were being sarcastic.

  5. palisadesk says:

    This case is reminiscent of the Zachary Christie case last year in Newark, Delaware:

    A six-year-old was going to be sent to “reform school” with teen-aged carjackers for bringing a Cub Scout camping tool to school. It ended up with the school board rescinding its verdict in that case but not addressing the underlying idiocies in its Zero Tolerance policy.

    How can schools possibly instill “critical thinking” in students when officials are clearly incapable of it themselves?

    I know, rhetorical question. A Times editorial asked, Isn’t common sense part of the curriculum?


  6. My blog used to deal a lot with Zero Tolerance idiocy, but I’ve moved away from the issue lately. But my commentary on this case includes a resurrected quote from a few years back:

    [I]n the interest of making sure that no parent complains that their child has been discriminated against after their child starts hacking up classmates with a samurai sword, possession of anything that bears a vague resemblance to a dangerous weapon (including a harmless kitchen utensil) must be banned and harshly punished.

  7. Richard Aubrey says:

    New info from the school, supposedly, says Ashley isn’t suspended and the knife was found in her purse.
    The school is at a loss to know why the family went to the media several months after whatever it is did or didn’t happen, instead of to the school with their concerns. However, according to Insty, this information is second hand.

  8. Richard Nieporent says:

    The question is why do we pay these school administrators any more than the minimum wage. Clearly they are not being paid to think so their pay should reflect that fact.

  9. Richard Aubrey says:

    Richard N.
    See mine at 3:01. They were thinking, is my point.

    New info is that the lunch box is not a traditional metal one, but one that looks like an odd purse. Knife in the lunch box. If true, the school is mixed up. My point at 3:01 still seems likely.

    Doesn’t every school need a Great White Hope (Tom Wolf) on the shelf?

  10. Mike Curtis says:

    How does one “find” a knife in a purse, lunchbox, backpack, etc? Was there a search? Why? The knife was revealed for a reason…therein lies what could be a reasonable response from admin.

  11. Michael E. Lopez says:

    My understanding is that there was some sort of search after someone or another was caught with some MJ.


  1. Zero tolerance Stupidity…

    This is one of those stories that makes me embarrassed to be in any way involved in education. An athletic and academic standout in Lee County said a lunchbox mix-up has cut short her senior year of high school and might hurt her college opportunities….