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.
Ashley Smithwick, 17, of Sanford, 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 got pulled into it. She doesn’t have to be a bad person to be searched,” Smithwick’s father, Joe Smithwick, said.
The lunchbox really belonged to 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.
Ashley Smithwick said she had never gotten in trouble before and was surprised when the principal opened her lunchbox and found the knife.
The teen was initially given a 10-day suspension, then received notice that she was suspended the rest of the school year.
"I don’t understand why they would even begin to point the finger at me and use me as an example," she said.
This month, Ashley Smithwick, a soccer player who takes college-level courses, was charged with misdemeanor possession of a weapon on school grounds. She is no longer allowed to set foot on campus.
As someone who's entrusted with over 150 kids a day, I'm embarrassed that others in my profession behave this way. It's shameful--yet I, and not the perpetrators, am the one feeling the shame.