A standout North Carolina high school student has been suspended for the remainder of her senior year and charged with a misdemeanor for having a small paring knife in her lunchbox.
Ashley Smithwick, 17, of Sanford told WRAL she accidentally took her father's lunchbox to Southern Lee High School in October instead of her own when school officials searched the lunchbox, along with several other students' possessions, possibly looking for drugs.
Ashley's father, Joe Smithwick told the station the lunchbox had a paring knife inside so that he could slice up an apple that accompanied it.
"It's just an honest mistake. That was supposed to be my lunch because it was a whole apple," he said.
But school officials didn't see it that way.
The athlete who takes college-level courses was suspended for the remainder for the school year, banned from campus and this month was charged with misdemeanor possession of a weapon on school grounds, WRAL reported.
Ashley says she finds the punishment particularly alarming because she's never been in trouble before.
"I don't understand why they would even begin to point the finger at me and use me as an example," she told the station.
Lee County Superintendent Jeff Moss told the Sanford Herald that he couldn't discuss the specifics of Ashley's case, but that under school policy principals can determine discipline on a case by case basis and that discipline is usually less severe if a student who accidentally carries a weapon to school reports it rather than having a teacher find it.
"When the principals conduct their investigations, what typically is fleshed out is the true intent," he told the paper. "Bottom line is: We want to ensure every child feels safe on our campus."
Despite the suspension, Ashley is completing her coursework though online courses at Central Carolina Community College but says she worries how the incident will affect her college prospects.
"When you have a criminal record no school's going to look at you," she told WRAL. "I have a pretty nice talent. I'm good at playing soccer and that talent is just wasted now."