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The PJ Tatler

by
Bryan Preston

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May 2, 2013 - 7:57 am

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.

Bryan Preston has been a leading conservative blogger and opinionator since founding his first blog in 2001. Bryan is a military veteran, worked for NASA, was a founding blogger and producer at Hot Air, was producer of the Laura Ingraham Show and, most recently before joining PJM, was Communications Director of the Republican Party of Texas.

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All Comments   (8)
All Comments   (8)
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I played with chemicals back in high school. These folk would have had me up for the death penalty! Instead, one of the English teachers had me mix up some mild pyrotechnics for a class play. But that was back in the Fifties.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Here is a petition urging the Polk County School District not to expel Kiera Wilmot, and to support their science students instead:

http://www.change.org/petitions/polk-county-school-district-don-t-expel-kiera-wilmot
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sounds like science to me.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is silly. She made a mistake, suspend her for a couple of days 'maybe', and tell her don't do stuff like this again. When I was in Jr. High school, I used a magnifying glass to set a shade on fire from my desk. I only intended to burn a small hole in it. I was about 10 feet away from the window. I didn't realized that the paper shade was EXTREMELY flammable. I got the 'right hand' (being hit by the principle accros the palm of your right hand several times. They sent me back to class after that. Never did anything like that again!

That was their 'zero' policy and it worked very well!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The principal should've talked to her, asked her to promise not to do it again, and sent her on her way.

On another front, this year's nominee for the Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction Novel assures us on Twitter it's racism.

https://twitter.com/nkjemisin/status/329340429126496257

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This reminds me of an incident from my own high school days. I had an after-school job as a lab assistant and had heard that if you mixed potassium permanganate and an acid - sulphuric? hyrdochloric? I don't recall which - you'd get great billowing clouds of purple smoke. The source of this information was none other than my Theatre teacher, who'd said they used this approach for a production of Macbeth. I resolved to try this little experiment that day at a time when I knew the teachers were all at a meeting. The experiment was a bit of a dud: there was a little bit of purple smoke but nothing like the Theatre teacher had indicated. No one ever caught on and no damage was done. I'm not sure what would have happened if I'd been caught. My boss was the head of the Science Department but we'd never had any trouble between us. I suspect I would have gotten a warning not to try such things again. At worst, I might have gotten fired. I can't even imagine criminal charges for such a thing. Of course, that was long before these preposterous zero tolerance policies came into effect.

Actually, the real punishment would have come if I'd blown my fool head off or blown up the school.

Mind you, a science teacher at the local elementary school once burned down an entire wing of her school through a mis-conducted experiment and that was relatively recently. As far as I know, that teacher wasn't even reprimanded, even though it must have cost at least hundreds of thousands and more likely millions to replace the damaged wing of the school.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As Glenn Reynolds keeps saying, sending your kids to public school at this point appears to be de facto parential malpractice.

These adminstrators love "zero tolerance" because it gives them license to thougtlessly destroy a young life without having to feel bad about it. "Hey, it's not my fault that teenager's life is over, I was just following policy". Nice try... but who MADE the policy?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Honestly, it could've happened to any curious kid, but she was not well informed of school policy. Hopefully she'll get a fair judge.

Part of the problem in my school district (for example) is that when kids do stupid things like this, or call in bomb threats, none of the adults talk about it so the information doesn't get to the next class of kids, who then do the same stupid things. They're not learning from each other due to political correctness.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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