Ashley Smithwick and the Paring Knife Loophole

Remember how I said that NC Law against weapons on campus contains an exception for “tools used solely for the preparation of food?” I told reporter Jackie Faye about it after meeting her at the emergency school board meeting. (Video viewable at my blog)

Cross your fingers.

Update: Since she has the signed release form from the parents, watch this space. Jackie says she will let me know when her follow up report is filed.

15 responses to “Ashley Smithwick and the Paring Knife Loophole

  1. While that would give them a safe way out, I wouldn’t count on them taking it. They’d be afraid that more students would defy authority by having one after being allowed to.

    Yes, I know it’s hard to defy authority by doing what you’re allowed to do. It’s a teacher thing.

  2. The teacher, principal, school board and superintendent have provided a valuable lesson to their students. They have taught them that adults, the people they are supposed to look up to, emulate and learn from are IDIOTS.

    This lesson will stand these kids in good stead for the rest of their lives.

  3. Careful about bringing a “food preparation” loophole to light. The authorities will move to close it…

  4. Yeah, I expect the Brady Campaign to Prevent Knife Ownership and the Illegal Mayors Against Knives to descend on the new Republican controlled NC General Assembly any minute. 😉

  5. I agree with the second post, and add that they also taught the kids that bureaucrats will circle the wagons to protect the idiocy of one of their kind.

    They also taught the thinking adults in the community how evil the school principle and board are.

    I’ll bet there are more than a few tea parties being held in Sanford where some strategies are being cooked….

  6. Good point, second poster. In choosing whether to send our son to public or private school, we chose public school because I wanted him to see what life is like with the government in charge.

    I know that sounds like cruelty to a child, but he subsequently went through a state university with his antipathy toward bureaucrats intact. It’s the best argument I can offer for continuing an otherwise useless system.

  7. If only there were a “food” loophole, then those kids who got suspended for shooting at each other with chicken fingers “held like pistols” wouldn’t have been suspended.

  8. The School Board and Administrators in this school system are TYPICAL – they are politically correct dunces.

    The reason for Zero-Tolerance Rules in schools is that NO ONE wants to be responsible for making common sense decisions and being called to task when they make a stupid decision.

  9. Like I said before, zero tolerance is zero thinking. I almost can’t believe they haven’t backed off though in the face of national attention, they’re looking like a bunch of lunatics.

  10. Pyro, I think that the problem for the administration is that this hasn’t moved much for two months, and then, all of a sudden, they are buried under an avalanche. They cannot possibly react fast enough for this.

    Plus, they think they are right. Damn the law, they believe that if they don’t like something, you should get punished for doing it. Sound familiar?

  11. I guess they’re just acting in the kids best interests then by preparing them for real life =)

    This is really why I abhor laws prohibiting mere possession of certain things, they try to turn everything into a black and white issue when there are always numerous legitimate ‘excuses’.

    It’s a travesty of justice really, the law isn’t meant to slap around citizens by making honest mistakes, it’s supposed to give law enforcement the tools they need to go after real threats.

  12. How long will it take to file a lawsuit?

    Given that the school board gets elected by the voters, what happens when the price tag of a lawsuit shows up?

    Jeff Moss wasn’t such a hit in Beaufort before he got to Raleigh.

    Can the school hold back Ashley’s grades, in an attempt to get her parents to sign off and go away? CAROL HERMAN

  13. Oh, tears and flapdoodle — “the taxpayers would pay the cost of a lawsuit because the school system has no insurance.” What a disaster — sticking it to third party A instead of third party B, while the perpetrators get to slide either way. This type of crap isn’t going to stop until the people who MADE THE BAD DECISION are PERSONALLY responsible for the costs of the lawsuit. Then maybe they will stop hiding behind Other People’s Money every time they decide it’s OK to ruin a girl’s rights, her record, or her life.

  14. In the end, whoever pays, the taxpayer ends up with the bill. Luckily, the taxpayers of Lee County are also the voters of Lee County. Well, lucky for us. Not so lucky for the School Board.

  15. A commenter tried posting this, but for some reason it failed to post.

    Per the summons, Ashley faces a misdemeanor charge of unlawfully and willfully possessing a weapon (i.e. the paring knife) on educational property. Legally, “lawfully” means either that she was authorized to carry the weapon, as a police officer would be, or the paring knife met one of the exceptions provided in the law. As you pointed out, the paring knife was an instrument used to prepare food. However, the courts have generally restricted that exemption to the cafeteria staff. This is where “willfully” comes into play.
    In general, “willfully” means:
    Committed voluntarily and purposely, with the specific intent to do something; voluntarily and intentionally assisting or advising another to do something that the person knows disobeys or disregards the law. A person does not act ‘willfully’ if the person acts as a result of a good faith misunderstanding of the requirements of the law.
    Intent and motive should not be confused. Motive is what prompts a person to act, while intent refers to the state of mind with which the act is done.
    So, if the acts constituting a crime were committed by someone voluntarily as an intentional violation of a known legal duty, that is, with specific intent to do something the law forbids, then the element of “willfulness” has been satisfied even though the person may have believed that his conduct was [religiously, politically or morally] required, or that ultimate good would result from such conduct.
    On the other hand, if there’s a reasonable doubt as to whether someone acted in good faith, sincerely believing himself to be exempt by the law [e.g. from the withholding of income taxes], then he did not intentionally violate a known legal duty, that is, he did not act “willfully”.
    “’Willful’ as used in criminal statutes means the wrongful doing of an act without justification or excuse, or the commission of an act purposely and deliberately in violation of the law.” State v. Davis, 86 N.C. App. 25, 30, 356 S.E.2d 607, 610 (1987) (citing State v. Arnold, 264 N.C. 348, 141 S.E.2d 473 (1965)). “’Willfulness’ is a state of mind which is seldom capable of direct proof, but which must be inferred from the circumstances of the particular case.” (
    In Ashley’s case, we have two basic questions: when did she discover the knife, and/or did she reasonably believe the knife met the exemption for food preparation? And by “discover”, I mean that she understood the object was a knife that met the legal definition of a weapon. Ashley stated on TV that the knife blade was still covered by its plastic safety cap when the principal pulled it from the lunch bag located inside the oversize purse. Therefore, even had she seen the paring knife at lunchtime, her lawyer could argue that Ashley did not form the necessary mental image of the small object as an illegal weapon when she automatically put it back in the bag.
    Generally, when kids take weapons to school, they conceal them because they know they’re doing something wrong. But here, Mrs. Smithwick put the knife in her husband’s lunch bag, so Ashley who accidently grabbed the wrong bag, had no reason to believe that she possessed a weapon on school property. Putting the object back in her bag would be the normal way to carry a common utensil home. Her actions were passive rather than active. Students often agree under interrogation by school authorities that they should have acted differently, but that was not what they were thinking at the time.
    Stephen Stewart