What do you think mom's? 16 year old felon for science project gone wrong?
Kiera Wilmot is a 16-year-old Bartow, Florida high school student whose life has been forever altered by either a) a science project gone bad; or b) her own curiosity.
According to WTSP.com, on Monday, Kiera was arrested and expelled from Bartow High School. She was charged with possession and discharge of a weapon on school property, as well as discharging a destructive device.
The Root.com says that the teen was curious to perform an experiment for an upcoming Science Fair. Wilmot mixed a common over-the-counter toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil in an 8-ounce water bottle. She had been told by a friend that the mixture would produce non-toxic smoke.
And so it did. The bottle's top blew off with a loud “bang,” and a considerable amount of smoke.
Assistant Principal Dan Durham, as reported by the Washington Times, heard the noise, made a cursory “investigation,” and immediately called the police. The arrest report can be found here.
Again, the offensive chemicals allegedly used by Wilmot were strictly legal and no one was hurt.
Her actions, however, violated the school’s “zero tolerance” code of conduct policy. To wit: Expulsion of any student is non-negotiable and mandated when he or she is found “in possession of a bomb or explosive device…while at a school, a school activity or a school bus…unless it’s used as part of a school-related activity sanctioned by and conducted by a teacher.”
All who know this young lady say that these charges and this incident have been blown way out of proportion. Assistant Principal Durham himself, for example, calls Kiera a "good kid" who's "never been in trouble before – ever."
Yet, this selfsame principal's knee-jerk and bureaucracy-laden reaction was to call the police on her, stand by as she was arrested, and later (after having had time to reflect on the matter and actually having discussed the incident with her) assent to her permanent expulsion from his school.
His later remarks about the affair seem more than a little self-serving: "She made a bad choice. Honestly, I don't think she meant to ever hurt anyone. She wanted to see what would happen [when the chemicals mixed] and was shocked by what it did. Her mother is shocked too."
The police report, filed by Bartow investigating officer Gregory Rhoden, said Wilmot told Durham “she was conducting a science fair experiment.”
No one was hurt and no property was damaged. But Florida assistant state attorneyTammy Glotfelty, contacted by Rhoden, “advised this officer to file a charge of possessing or discharging weapons or firearms” at school.
Polk County Schools, in a statement, said the incident Monday “was a serious breach of conduct.”
Bartow police spokesman Sgt. David Wyant said whether or not it really was a science experiment is something the state attorney general’s office has to decide.
“That was her excuse,” he said. “We can’t prove that.”
Pritchard was quoted by the local Ledger of Lakeland newspaper as saying he was standing nearby when he heard a pop.
“She left it on the ground, and she stayed there,” he said. “We went over to where she was. She saw that we saw her, so she didn’t take off.”
Wilmot's fellow students and many friends all describe her actions as "a science project gone bad, that she never meant to hurt anyone." As one of her fellow students told WSTB: "She just wanted to see what happened to those chemicals in the bottle. Now, look what happened."
Kiera Wilmot now faces three felony charges, and will be tried as an adult, rather than in the juvenile criminal justice system of the great state of Florida. If found guilty of any one of the charges, she is marked for life with the "F-word" -- felon.
So, was this curiosity? Or, was it a science project gone wrong?
Or was this 16-year-old part of some nefarious conspiracy ring determined to wreak havoc upon South Florida? Perhaps she was yet another disaffected “lone wolf” who held a deep-seated, murderous grudge against her school, her classmates, her state, her world?
The only relevant question here is was this a true bomb plot?
The Miami New Times has urged school children everywhere to be careful: “So, sorry kids. Don’t try any extracurricular science projects on school grounds, especially if they could result in anything resembling an explosion.”
This is a disturbing story should which should concern each and every student and parent in this nation-state's public education system.
As the Reason Magazine article referenced below observed, “[T]he only person in this story facing a serious threat to her safety and security is the girl who might have to serve a prison sentence — but then, she doesn’t go to Bartow High anymore, so perhaps the school system doesn’t think she counts.”
I was wrong. There is another relevant question here: Have this nation-states' schools become bureaucratic prisons wherein reason, intelligence, and, yes, tolerance, are forfeited in the pursuit of “security?”
Cevin Soling has put together a compelling documentary called War on Kids. I highly recommend it:
“Public schools have essentially been turned into prisons with constant surveillance and harsh, often absurd zero tolerance policies towards drugs, alcohol, weapons, violence and other forms of misbehavior. Things that would’ve earned you a visit with a counselor or the principal can now get you expelled.”
Another question: Are school administrators no longer servicing their charges and their community, but functioning essentially as overseers of their schools like jail or prison wardens – or slave masters?
One more question: Are teachers now mere glorified babysitters, disallowed from actually challenging students to reach for the stars?
Lord knows America desperately needs more scientists, engineers, artists, writers –thinkers.
One example will do here. Thomas Alva Edison conducted thousands upon thousands of failed experiments, blowing up whole laboratories in the process, before he finally got it right. The result? That's why you are able to read this report right now by artificial (electric) light rather than gas or candlelight.
Just a little bit my life experiences.