Getting arrested for a science project that was less explosive and less noisy than shaking a soda bottle and opening it while under full pressure has the news and internet world in uproar. And rightly so. On Monday morning at 7 a.m., Kiera Wilmot, a 16-year-old honor student, mixed toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil in an 8 oz plastic water bottle on the school grounds of Bartow High School in Bartow, Fla., as part of a potential science fair project, reported the Miami New Times on May 1, 2013.
“According to an officer, an assistant principal heard an explosion near a gazebo on the school grounds and found Wilmot near a plastic bottle.”
“By all accounts, Kiera Wilmot’s science experiment gone wrong triggered just a tiny pop and a small amount of smoke at Bartow High School last week — but her tale is certifiably blowing up the Internet today. Thanks to Reddit and Reason, thousands of people have commented on Wilmot’s story, many asking the same question: How could an otherwise model student be expelled and charged with a felony over an experiment that didn’t hurt anyone?”
Apparently, the only reason why Kiera Wilmot was arrested, led away in handcuffs, is facing felony charges for possession/discharge of a weapon on school property and discharging a destructive device, is because her science teacher did not know about her experiment.
“The assistant principal called police after talking to Wilmot’s science teacher and determining he didn’t know about the experiment.”
In response to the news and internet uproar about an honor student having been arrested for a science project, Leah Lauderdale, a spokeswoman for the district, said that,
“Unfortunately, what she did falls into our code of conduct. It’s grounds for immediate expulsion.”
The code of conduct that 16-year-old Kiera Wilmot violated is Section 7.05 of the school’s conduct code. Section 7.05 is listed as “BOMB AND EXPLOSIVE” on page 43 of the “2011-2012 Code of Student Conduct” booklet published by the School Board of Polk County, Fla.
“A student who is in possession of a bomb, explosive device, or substance or materials intended for use in a bomb or explosive device or substance while at school or a school sponsored activity, on School Board property or a school bus (unless the material or device is being used as part of a legitimate school-related activity or science project conducted under the supervision of an instructor with the knowledge and consent of the principal), is guilty of a serious breach of conduct punishable as follows: Level: 8. Expulsion from School (for not less than one full year).”
There is no mention of felony charges under section 7.05 in the Code of Conduct booklet which reads more like a law book than a booklet intended for students or parents to read.
Expelling a student temporarily or permanently for having broken a code of conduct is one thing. However, arresting a student and having a student face felony charges is a different story. Is Kiera Wilmot being used as an example for other students?
When Tampa Bay’s 10News knocked on Kiera Wilmot’s family door, the voice of a teen girl yelled out, “You’ve blown everything out of proportion!”
There are so many things that are “blown out of proportion” in this story; leading a student away in handcuffs for a science experiment, filing felony charges, and, most importantly, having a school code of conduct booklet that reads like a law book. Do students need a lawyer next to them while attending school?
Has fear become such a powerful force that a student needs to be thrown into jail for trying to be creative?