Teen kicked off campus after lunch box mix-up

December 30, 2010 4:30:40 PM PST
A 17-year-old honor student says she has been kicked off campus for the rest of the school year, because of a mix-up with her lunch box.In October, senior Ashley Smithwick says she got in trouble at school for the first time in her life after she mistakenly took her father's lunch container -- that's identical to hers -- to Southern Lee High School.

Her dad's container had a three-inch paring knife inside.

"And I had just grabbed my dad's lunch box," Smithwick said. "I didn't mean to. I really didn't. I just grabbed it and went out the door."

School leaders say during that day a faculty member discovered a student with marijuana on campus and Smithwick's paring knife was found during a random search.

According to a written statement received by ABC11 from Lee County Schools Superintendent Jeff Moss on Wednesday, the knife was found in Smithwick's purse, not her lunchbox.

Smithwick was initially suspended for 10 days. Her family says then administrators told her in lieu of long-term suspension, she would be given an opportunity to complete the one course she needs to graduate online.

The family says she's not allowed on campus and won't walk across the stage during graduation. Her family is devastated.

"I wanted her back on campus," Smithwick's mother Heidi Smithwick said. "I wanted her to have her senior year. I wanted her to be able to play the sports she has played her entire life. And I wanted her to walk that stage with her classmates."

While Smithwick can't return to campus, Superintendent Moss apparently doesn't view that as a suspension. In the email to ABC11, he refers to Smithwick's "alleged" long-term suspension and said "facts recited by the media are erroneous and without foundation."

"Miss Smithwick has not been long-term suspended from Southern Lee High School. She is currently enrolled as a student at the school. 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," said Moss.

But Smithwick's family said she has indeed been barred from the campus ever since the incident, and now it appears the Lee County Board of Education intends to get involved. An emergency school board meeting has been called for Friday morning.

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