The gist of 16-year-old Kiera Wilmot’s story is that another school “zero tolerance” policy has resulted in the exercise of zero common sense. A good student and good kid now faces felony charges for being a goof.
The details of the story are that on Monday morning, Bartow, Florida high school student Kiera Wilmot mixed aluminum foil and toilet cleaner in a plastic bottle after an unidentified friend told her about what such a mix would produce. She says she thought it would produce smoke, but instead it produced a minor explosion. No one was injured. She was at school when she did this, outdoors, and never tried to flee the scene so she wasn’t trying to harm anyone or anything or pull some kind of scare attack. She says she was doing a “science fair experiment,” which is very debatable and sounds like an excuse. She was probably goofing, as kids tend to do. She got caught, has been expelled, and the school called the police on her. She was arrested. She’ll be tried as an adult on felony charges of “possessing or discharging weapons or firearms at a school sponsored event or on school property;” and “making, possessing or throwing, projecting, placing, or discharging any destructive device.” Never mind the charges, she’s 16. Why try her as an adult?
By even the school’s account, she’s a good kid. She just did a dumb thing.
According to WTSP, Wilmot told police that she was merely conducting a science experiment. Though her teachers knew nothing of the specific project, her principal seems to agree.
“She made a bad choice. Honestly, I don’t think she meant to ever hurt anyone,” principal Ron Pritchard told the station. “She wanted to see what would happen [when the chemicals mixed] and was shocked by what it did. Her mother is shocked, too.”
There’s no need to ruin her life for this.
The school says she should face total expulsion and ruinous felony charges because “there are consequences to actions.” Indeed there are and that’s a valuable lesson she should learn. Punishment is appropriate since she did this at school, but the academic equivalent of the death penalty is not. The school and local police would do well to remember the same lesson they’re trying to teach. They have a kid’s life in their hands right now, and there will be devastating consequences to her if they stay the course that they’re on.
The school is teaching another lesson too: Step an inch out of line with our official dogma and we will totally destroy you. That’s not a lesson that any school should be teaching.