No-Tolerance Idiocy of the Year: Southern Lee High School in Sanford, N.C.

Ethics Alarms has not yet completed its annual Best and Worst of Ethics lists for 2010, but I’ll hand out this title right now.  The persecution of student Ashley Smithwick, 17, of Sanford, N.C., has all the elements that make no-tolerance enforcement of school rules ethically offensive: a lack of common sense, absence of proportion, dismissal of empathy, rejection of fairness and justice, disregard for the welfare of an innocent child, and most of all, incompetent, cowardly, utterly stupid school administrators.

Yes, I think we have a winner.

Smithwick has been suspended from her school, Southern Lee High School,  for the rest of the year because teachers searching student lunch boxes for drugs discovered a small paring knife in the lunch box she was carrying. Despite the fact that the school acknowledges—

  • …that Ashley is an outstanding student who has never had any disciplinary problems,
  • …that he knife was obviously intended for food preparation and not to be used as a weapon,
  • …that Ashley was not aware that the knife was in the lunch box, and
  • …that it wasn’t her lunch box, but her father’s, who carries an identical box that she picked up by mistake that day

—she is unable to attend classes and may well have her college prospects harmed by the suspension. Just to make sure that Ashley suffers as much damage to her reputation and future as possible for an offense that she was entirely innocent of, the school also had her charged with misdemeanor possession of a weapon on school grounds.

Must send a clear message to those dangerous students, you know, by destroying the harmless, innocent, unlucky ones! That’s the logic of no-tolerance for you.

A school with administrators so resolutely immune to decency and ethical reasoning should be closed as a public nuisance, and its pathetic excuses for educators condemned to toll booth duty for life, where the damage they can do to children is minimal.

Yes indeed, the choice of “No-Tolerance Idiocy of the Year” is a no-brainer, awarded to a school run by people with no brains.

I’m so sorry, Ashley.

7 thoughts on “No-Tolerance Idiocy of the Year: Southern Lee High School in Sanford, N.C.

  1. Why is it, Jack, that the classroom seems to have become a sanctuary for incompetants and the last refuge of scoundrels? Remember when teaching was an honorable profession… before the unionists, politicians and perverts took it over?

    • I don’t think the classrooms have changed any differently than the rest of society. Also, it’s the administrators and lawyers which set the policies, not the teachers, who should be blamed. If the teacher had let the incident go, they likely would have been fired. At least, that’s what would happen in the school system I substitute taught at. Tenure be damned.

  2. Jack,
    My sons went to this school for two years and I am so glad we relocated to Northern Virginia to get the education they deserved. This story is so sad but a true testament to the backward thinking Lee County thrives in.

  3. Jack,
    According to the school:

    “On October 20, 2010, a faculty member at Southern Lee High School discovered a student on campus with marijuana. Based upon information obtained in the interview between school administration and the student in question, a search of several other students, including Miss Smithwick, was promptly conducted. During this search, a 3-inch paring knife was found on the person of Miss Smithwick in her purse. The knife was not found in Miss Smithwick’s lunchbox as reported by her family and the media.

    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.”


    • So, we’re at an interesting he said – she said. Did the media not ask to see the notice suspending Ashley for the rest of the year? It should also be pretty easy to find witnesses to her presense at school or lack their of.

      Searching around this story, I see stories representing the student’s side as truth, and then stories correcting it reporting the superindent’s word as gospel. Did anyone do ANY investigating into this?

  4. PS: Is it just me or is it bad form for the school to have made any public comment at all? I realize it was Ashley Smithwicke who may have drawn attention to the suspension in the first place, but I would think it bad form for the school to respond (in a media sense). By making a statement they’re only furthering the controversy and publicly taking sides against one of their own students. Even if not strictly unethical, it just seems like bad form.


  5. I am just catching up to this. In the original reports, the school administrators “declined to comment”, which in cases like this means to me “were getting together to get their stories straight.” Maybe not. Maybe the family of the girl suddenly decided to go public with a complete fabrication. I find it all confusing.

    PS: It is still absurd to discipline a student for carrying a paring knife.

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