School officials in Sanford, NC have broken their silence about a high school senior who claims she was suspended for accidentally bringing a paring knife to school as a result of a lunchbox mix-up. According to the school, the girl's account is false.
On Tuesday, news station WRAL-TV posted a story focusing on Ashley Smithwick's story about her banishment from campus for the rest of the year after she mistakenly brought her father's lunchbox to school, which contained a small knife for cutting an apple, instead of her own. She and her father have identical lunchboxes.
At the time of the story, Southern Lee High School officials refused to comment on the specific case. But after the story garnered national headlines, it seems the school is now willing to speak. And it's saying Smithwick is lying.
In a follow-up story posted on WRAL-TV's website, the news outlet quotes a statement by Lee County Schools Superintendent Jeff Moss saying that the knife was not found in a lunchbox but rather in the teen's purse. He also said Smithwick was not suspended long term.
"She is currently enrolled as a student at the school," Moss's statement reads.
The story is now stuck in a she-said-they-said, and has Moss wondering why Smithwick and her family went to the media.
"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," he said.
WRAL did not post a response from Smithwick or her family.
An emergency school board meeting has been called in order to address a disciplinary situation, reports WRAL. In a story on Thursday evenning, the news station says the girl's parents did try numerous times to contact Moss, and a disciplinary contract signed last month does in fact bar Smithwick from setting foot on campus or using school resources:
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.