Teen kicked out of school over science experimentAs school districts around the nation attempt to encourage students to take an interest in math and science, one Florida honor student has been expelled from school and is facing felony chargers over an apparent experiment gone awry.

By all accounts 16-year-old Kiera Wilmot is a model student. She gets good grades, comes from a great family, and her principal at Bartow High School calls her “exemplary.” But after she mixed together two household cleaning items in an eight-ounce bottle and caused a small explosion, the honor student finds herself facing jail time.

The Miami New Times reports:

At 7 a.m. on Monday, the 16 year-old mixed some common household chemicals in a small 8 oz water bottle on the grounds of Bartow High School in Bartow, Florida. The reaction caused a small explosion that caused the top to pop up and produced some smoke. No one was hurt and no damage was caused.

Wilmot claims she was merely conducting a science experiment and wanted to see how the common chemicals will react, but school police arrested the teen and charged her with possession/discharge of a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device.

Though no one was hurt and no damage was caused during the small explosion, Wilmot was expelled from school and must complete her diploma through a special expulsion program.

Many have called the school district’s decision an overreaction, but the Polk County School district is standing by its decision to harshly punish the teen.

“Anytime a student makes a bad choice it is disappointing to us. Unfortunately, the incident that occurred at Bartow High School yesterday was a serious breach of conduct. In order to maintain a safe and orderly learning environment, we simply must uphold our code of conduct rules,” the district said in a statement. “We urge our parents to join us in conveying the message that there are consequences to actions. We will not compromise the safety and security of our students and staff.”

Wilmot’s principal, Ron Pritchard told a local news affiliate the teen is a good student who simply made a mistake.

“She made a bad choice. Honestly, I don’t think she meant to ever hurt anyone,” he told WTSP. “She wanted to see what would happen [when the chemicals mixed] and was shocked by what it did. Her mother is shocked, too.”

Schools should be a place for intellectual curiosity,  but unfortunately for Wilmot, her penchant for science got her in serious trouble.

*h/t to  Carolyn Edgar.

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Want to voice your displeasure with the district’s decision to oust the teen? Contact the Polk Country School district: 

Polk County Superintendent: Dr. John Stewart /Address: 1915 South Floral Avenue, Bartow, FL 33831 Phone: (863) 534-0521 Fax: (863) 519-8231 Email: Dr. John Stewart

  • The Moon in the Sky

    A felony?

    Did this happen in a science lab?

  • stef

    a white or Asian student would have got offered a scholarship, a black one gets expelled smh

  • http://twitter.com/AmandaMichelle one name, 2 words (@AmandaMichelle)

    hi! the link to email john stewart leads to the miami new times story, not an email address. can you post the address?

  • http:tontonmichel.tumblr.com Tonton Michel

    Over reaction by the school and but police, but at the same time I am not sure this young lady didnt know what was going to happen and it doesnt sound like this was school sanctioned. Kids today.

  • http://www.polk-fl.net/districtinfo/contactus/default.htm Ciderkiss

    Wow, I’ve passed through Bartow a few times. This is a real shame that we punished this girl’s curiosity. This is too much and makes Americans look bad. We are already known for not encouraging creativity and curiosity. This girl should not have gotten kicked out of school. I am sick of school districts over-punishing black students. I’m really starting to get sick of living in this state.

    This is the Prinicpal’s (Ronald Pritchard’s) Email: [email protected]

    This is the Polk County School Disctrict’s Superintendant (Dr. John A. Stewart) Email: [email protected]

    Let’s stand behind this girl and let these people know that the way they reacted was uncalled for.

  • Jennifer
  • http://www.facebook.com/liz.lemon.560 Liz Lemón

    “She made a bad choice. Honestly, I don’t think she meant to ever hurt anyone,” he told WTSP. “She wanted to see what would happen [when the chemicals mixed] and was shocked by what it did. Her mother is shocked, too.”

    Contradiction much? Choice implies forethought, and shock suggests a surprise; the unexpected. This is ridiculous, if anything the school needs better chemistry teachers. Wishing her well.

  • jay cee

    Where was the teacher? Didn’t the teacher know that she was going to try this experiment? However, I am not surprised at the outcome, especially being in the south. This response by the police has RACISM written all over it! How did the police get involved anyway? SOMEBODY had to call them. The principal and the district are equally as guilty. Here is a young, bright, good student, who apparently will be successful in life. Boy, aren’t they glad she made a mistake so that they could chop her off at the knees!

  • Starla

    There was no need for her to be arrested, and expelled. Bad judgements are part of being young. Yes, there are consequences for all actions, and having her pay out of pocket for repairs, or if her family couldn’t afford it, then put her to work around the school until it is paid off would have sufficed. Luckily she or nobody else was hurt in this experiment.

  • http://www.myblackfriendsays.com myblackfriendsays

    This is what happens when you have zero tolerance policies.

  • omfg

    she needs a very good attorney. i hope someone helps her family with this.

  • http://gravatar.com/rastaman1967 rastaman

    This is a lesson to children everywhere, school is not the place to satisfy your intellectual curiosity. Science is the devil’s playground, if she had conducted a prayer service and then done the experiment she would have been commended for trying to bring God back into our schools where he belongs…SMDH
    Either the people running this school district are some of the dumbest people in the country or there is something missing from this story to which we are not privy.
    If it is the former, I can only be grateful,I do not live there and the stupidity can somehow be contained and not allowed to infect too many other places.

  • http://www.polk-fl.net/districtinfo/contactus/default.htm Ciderkiss

    Also everyone please sign the petition on Change dot Org. I already emailed the Superintendent, and the Police department. I let the know that we are not playing around and that they should let her go. You all should do the same.

    http://www.change.org/petitions/the-bartow-police-and-bartow-high-school-drop-charges-against-kiera-wilmot#share

  • http://gravatar.com/libpatriot GeekMommaRants

    We can understand why so many are turned off of education. They are taught to do so, by teachers, principals, and the police. Please send this story everywhere, your facebook, twitter, cnn, everyone you know. This shit here must stop, and we must stop it!!!

  • http://gravatar.com/keimia Kam

    I was initially on her side until I found she was mixing things in a water bottle. She was making a “bottle bomb”. (Google it) They’ve become popular on youtube and some teens have been using them as pranks my leaving them in places like mailboxes. Unsuspecting people have picked these bottle up causing the bottle to explode in their hands. When the bottle explodes the chemicals inside fly everywhere. People have suffered burns. One boy almost lost his eyesight when the bottle exploded while he was making the bomb. The loud bang can damaging to ears. She is lucky that no one was hurt in this instance. None of her teachers knew about this “experiment” and she did it on school grounds. Randomly mixing chemicals is VERY BAD science.

    Her punishment isn’t without precedent. Other students have been charged for making these bombs. Years ago another straight-A student in California named Elphbert Laforteza was also charged for doing the same thing. He spent 5 days in jail.

    I know this article is trying to make her look very innocent by peppering it with the words “honor student” and “science” but ultimately she is a teen that made a very wrong decision and I’m a firm believer that more teens need to learn that their actions have consequences.

  • MommieDearest

    @myblackfriendsays:

    “This is what happens when you have zero tolerance policies.”

    Exactly! People stop thinking and common sense flies straight out the window. *smh*

    I sincerely hope the narrow-minded actions of her school and the police don’t discourage her from continuing to seek scientific knowledge.

  • http:tontonmichel.tumblr.com Tonton Michel

    I didnt believe she was just some innocent girl showing curiosity but I thought the punishment was extreme but after reading up on it and in light of what happened in Boston, she maybe getting what she deserves.

  • http://gravatar.com/wjchucklebutt wjchucklebutt

    Do you know what chemicals she was mixing?

    For all we know, they could have been vinegar and baking soda. The police certainly aren’t saying.

  • http://www.polk-fl.net/districtinfo/contactus/default.htm Ciderkiss

    Doesn’t matter they have no right to go about this with a felony charge the way they did.

  • Missy

    Why didn’t she mix it at home? To be real just because you do something and it was not will malicious intent, doesn’t mean there are not consequences. She was DARED to do it by a friend which tells me she knew it was wrong.

  • KarlyPie

    This was done so that when some kid sets off a smoke bomb or fireworks in the bathroom (or whatever kids do today) and is rightfully expelled, his mom can’t say this girl caused an explosion and was not similarly punished. God forbid the school have a backbone and look at things on a case by case basis

  • Chandler

    What, are we banning chemistry class now? Come.to think of it, that might actually be a good thing! :) But seriously, this just shows how incompetent the people who run the school district really are…

  • dbsm

    “Either the people running this school district are some of the dumbest people in the country”

    i’m sorry you had to ponder this because i thought everyone knew about Florida schools/districts.

    polk county is country as fcuk, though it isn’t, the worst in the sunshine state. the officials and stuff are probably a bunch of pedophiles, too

  • Marisa

    Well if that’s the case I should have been charged with a felony from grades 5-11 with the amount of my experiments gone wrong. This is clear this was a project the young lady was working on and not some end of the year prank war, doesn’t surprise me that a lot of these educational personnel have no clue what their doing.

    I was watching a documentary on a school in trouble in DC and the sista and her band of teachers that were really trying to improve the kids education, they fired her without having to prove just cause as she wasn’t tenured. Mind you that all they cared about was test scores and wanting them higher on some deadline but, she was doing more than that with the kids including all who graduated got accepted into college. It wasn’t enough because its not really about the kids for a lot of those in positions of authority, its all about an agenda. I hope a legal team takes these trumped up charges head on.

  • Mr. Man

    For some reason I get the sense we don’t have enough info on this. Until I learn more of the facts I will hold my opinion. Theirs a lot vague info here.

  • Rue.

    If there is state in the Union with more stupid (white) people than Florida, i don’t wanna go there. and I say this a Floridian….

  • Wong Chia Chi

    I’m reposting this someone else’s comment on this from another website:

    “Oh so the girl who pops a cap off a bottle gets tried as an adult but the boys who gang-raped a girl get tried as juveniles. That makes total sense!”

    -nostalgiajunkie

    My feelings exactly.

  • Anonymous

    I’m so glad that Kam wrote this.

    I majored in chemistry and chemical engineering many moons ago, and I’ll admit that I’ve done some pretty off-the-wall things in labs, both in high school and after. But I always did those things *in* the laboratory and under fairly controlled conditions. This girl just went out and straight-up BUILT A BOMB. There is no other way to put it. But I don’t think that she was out to hurt anybody.

    Now … having said that, I’ll also say that I’ve worked at some pretty exclusive prep schools in my time. I can say with some confidence that an exclusive private school would *never* have called in the police to handle this. I’ve seen far worse things swept under the rug in my time.

    Nobody was hurt. She (probably) didn’t intend to hurt anybody or cause any damage. Most likely, a private school would have sent her to counseling and either suspended her or forced her to withdraw. I’m personally aware of one arson case that resulted in mandated counseling and forced withdrawal. (Notice that I didn’t say “expulsion”. A withdrawal allows the student to say that she left of her own accord. An expulsion looks very different to college admissions offices.) The authorities were never called in, the young man in question doesn’t have a criminal record, *and* the young man has gone on to attend a relatively high ranking university. His “punishment” was that he had to get his diploma from a public high school.

    Rich people try to counsel and rehabilitate their children. We (the middle class and below) criminalize ours for identical or lesser infractions.

  • Anonymous

    Clarification … there was some question as to whether the fire-setting case that i referenced above was intentional or unintentional. Either way, I think that the young man’s infraction was *at least* as serious as the present case, and was probably much worse.

  • http://gravatar.com/noirluv45 noirluv45

    This girl got good grades and was never in trouble. Kids are curious sometimes, and they don’t always make the best choices. She didn’t hurt anyone and there was no property damage.

  • http://gravatar.com/noirluv45 noirluv45

    She mixed toilet bowl cleaner with aluminum foil.

  • http:tontonmichel.tumblr.com Tonton Michel

    It doesn’t matter what her grades are like the prisons are filled with genius and the gifted. Not to say thats were she is heading but I am not buying a science experiment that involves household cleaning products under the supervision of a teacher that ends up exploding. What teacher okays that? At the end of the year too? No.

  • eevee

    I don’t think anyone is saying she should get off scot free. Only that maybe being charged as an adult with a felony is excessive. You can’t charge someone because something “could have” happened and prior good behavior (ie. first offense) and intent are taken into consideration when applying punishment all the time. It doesn’t mean she’s innocent it means no one was hurt and she wasn’t trying to blow up the school. Geez.

  • Chris

    This is going too far. I understand the school’s committment to public safety, but I am seeing it more as politics and fear. Every person who committed acts of terrorism and harmed others on purpose were discovered to have mental health issues. This girl I can pretty well assume does not have a history of mental health issues and never displayed any yellow flags indicating purpose or intent to cause harm. I understand a lot of people live in doubt and fear right now, but there is a classic saying—”We at times fear most what we lack nor desire to understand.” They are not even willing to develop complete understanding of this situation. Just condemning this young lady. Who should we REALLY be afraid of???? Dangerous students—-our the blind politically influenced dictatorship that is now been made by this school system? Dang, even the principal disagrees with this!!!

  • http://gravatar.com/babysister62 babysister62

    Who was monitoring this student while she was in the lab? Who did she talk to about her lab before she did the experiment. OK! She had an error in judgement and that is what happens when you DO SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS! My concern as a former administrator is WHO WAS SUPERVISING A 7:00 a.m. lab experiment? How much guidance and support did this student have? How did she access the chemicals? WHO WAS SUPERVISING THE STUDENT? No one was hurt so WHY THE DRAMA AND IT WAS NOT INTENTIONAL. This is a paramount reason that children do not try to do better! HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!

  • Anthony

    That is exactly what I was going to post.

    This goes double in the current war on terror environment where anything that looks like a bomb will land you in handcuffs.

    I am a bit unclear because I remember kids mixing stuff to make explosions or to fly rockets in school, and getting in mild trouble decades ago when I was in school. My questions are:

    1. Was she in the classroom?
    2. Was she using chemicals discussed in that day’s assignment?
    3. Had there been previous cases of kids doing the same thing, and they had been punished or warned?

    These factors will determine how I feel about this case.

  • Anthony

    If she built a bottle bomb, she screwed herself, end of story.

  • noirluv45

    Well, Anthony, kids do things. Even some of the greatest inventors experimented and blew ish up. People act like they’ve lived their lives clean from any mischief. The punishment does not fit the crime. She didn’t hurt anyone or anything, so that who “she screwed herself” in my opinion is harsh and self-righteous. End of story.

  • noirluv45

    Yeah, Missy, but let the punishment fit the crime. I noticed that some people can be very harsh to mistakes being made by young people. Not one of us here became adults without making mistakes. This girl didn’t hurt or injure anyone or anything.

    Many children are inquisitive.They do things; some do more destructive things than others. Yes, they should be corrected, but again, let the punishment fit the crime.Thankfully, in this girl’s case, no one, including herself was hurt.

  • Anthony

    Some times the things kids do will get them expelled and arrested. If she built a bottle bomb, it was not an experiment, she knew exactly what it would do, and she knew it was against rules. I don’t think she deserves to lose her future, but this was a serious lapse in judgement if she knowingly made a bottle bomb.

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    I agree with the reader who said we need more information because honestly I can’t pick a side without all the facts because on one hand I can see how people are saying the outcome doesn’t fit the crime (though just because nothing bad happened or you didn’t intend anything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get punished) but the science nerd in me is giving her thought process an epic side eye so I can see why people are split on the issue this type of thing especially with the bombing act in Boston and as mention teens on youtube and stories on the news about teens making simple bombs like the one mention isn’t cut and dry anymore. Bad judgment all around and lack if supervision especially if she brought the cleaning solutions to school (was it specify how she got them and where/when the experiment took place?)

  • Mademoiselle

    Sorry but I can’t fully jump on the sympathy wagon. The lack of details in this story made me suspicious and it turns out this was not an “experiment.” This was a kid who heard mixing aluminum foil and toilet bowl cleaner would cause an explosion, and proceeded to do just that in the gazebo, not lab, of her school where no teachers were around. And I can see how this falls under the category of possessing a weapon. She’s lucky there were no damages and that she didn’t hurt herself. Smart kids do dumb things sometimes, but even the smart ones are subject to discipline. She can appeal the expulsion, though.

  • http://gravatar.com/blaque217 blaque217

    If she took it upon herself to bring these chemicals to school and perform this experiment, then unfortunately, she got what she deserved. Thank God, she didn’t hurt herself or someone else because this could have been a lot worse.
    On the other hand, if this was part of a class assignment and her teacher knew that she was outside whipping up some chemicals, well, the school most definitely over reacted. But like many others have said, there are just not enough details here.

    The good news here is that she was previously an “exemplary” student and this one transgression shouldn’t hold her back from becoming whatever it is she would like to become.

  • Anthony

    I have not seen enough to judge whether she had an accident, or if she was being mischievous. That is the question I would like answered.

    I do not think I am harsh. I was young once, and I did things that were wrong. Some I got away with, and others got me in trouble. That is how life works.

  • GlowBelle

    I can’t really give too much of a pass for this young woman because there seems to be not enough details, lots of speculation, plus the main thing that proves why the school panicked is that she didn’t do this ‘experiment’ in a school lab. All of this could have been avoided if she had done so. I took advanced chemistry in high school and we had to sign papers and get the teacher’s permission before doing any kind of experiment in the lab. You don’t “play” with chemicals, esp. when you don’t know what the heck you’re doing. That is dangerous. So why didn’t she consult a teacher? In the wake of the Boston bombings and school shootings, doing something like this is putting yourself and a whole bunch of others in trouble. I’m sorry, but we can’t have nice things anymore. Still those incidents shouldn’t stop kids from pursuing science — but you just have to follow the rules.

    Those citing that her experimenting makes kids fear creativity and kills education don’t realize that by simply letting an instructor know what she was doing, she could have prevented herself from getting into trouble and looking all kinds of suspicious. If she was trying to impress friends or bullied into doing the experiment, we need to know this, and we don’t. I really don’t want to believe this young woman was intentionally trying to make a bomb, and I hope that this was all a misunderstanding and that if so the charges against her are dropped, but I hope she learns a valuable lesson that you have to THINK about what you are doing and if its the time and place you should be doing it.

  • noirluv45

    Yes, Kiera’s experiment wasn’t a smart thing to do. To me, it’s not about whether or not she should be punished, but the punishment itself. Like someone else stated on this site, the prosecutor showed compassion in the case of a boy who shot and killed his brother will a BB gun because “it was an accident.” YET, a black girl makes a decision to blow up a bottle out of curiosity – no one gets hurt, not even property – and she not only gets expelled, but will be CHARGED AS AN ADULT for the “crime.” I mean, really?

  • cupcakes and shiraz

    I have to agree with your assessment. She did a dumb thing, and should face the consequences (such as suspension and community service), but expulsion and felony charges is like giving someone the death penalty for getting into a fist fight.

  • Kam

    She talked to no one, and no one knew about this. Non one was supervising. This was no experiment. She used household chemicals.

  • wake up

    These cases never seem to surprise me. And honestly this isnt startling news. There is an alarmingly disproportionate amount of black children being railroaded into the for-profit prison industrial system for infractions which would result in a slap on the wrist for white children.

    Black people gotta stop playing around and realize that were sitting ducks out here. As soon as something pops off with any other group of people, they react as a collective. The only time we do so is when we’re harming or demeaning each other but as soon as an outside group does us wrong “we gotta wait for all the facts”. This is why our children are under attack.

    Where are all those white feminist groups who were out in the forefront against Rick Ross? Why arent they defending this young child whose facing felony charges for being curious? Why is it that everytime blacks commit an infraction against each other, groups outside our community are in the forefront speaking out. Yet when they do harm to us, were the only ones rallying?

    When asian/white/latino people are done wrong, they get together, they lobby, they put their money, connections and resources together and they get their needs/ rights taken care of and their people get defended. Were the only ones still begging the president for help just because he looks like us. And when other groups have done wrong, they shut up, they dont break rank, they arent divisive. Even if their people have done wrong, they shut up and stay strong whether theyre right or wrong. How many white people have donated money to Zimmerman? Even though hes flat out wrong. They dont care, they shut up and support their own. Were the only ones who dont. So when other groups see that we cant even stick together to support our people, not be divisive and take care of our business, it gives them free reign to crap on us. Am I suggesting rallying for people even when theyre wrong? No but we dont need to be all in the camera telling the reporters how bad that person was. We just need to shut up.

    How many times has a white kid blown something up and the media instantly regards them as a good kid who would never hurt a fly (even though they usually have a history of violent behavior) and instantly suggest that just kid needs psychological evaluation, or they keep their mouths shut and dont say anything at all (Or they sweep it under the rug). But as soon as our kids are curious, theyre labeled fellons, thugs and deserve jail time? I can even be mad at the system anymore or blame them because we allow it. No other group would tollerate the mistreatment we allow. Our buying power CONTROLS this country, yet we still look at ourselves as second class citizens.

    So what do we need to do?

    Start donating to elected officials campaigns as a collective – This is how the gay community gets their needs met and I applaud them for it. They donate major funds to candidates they can swing in their favor, automatically making that politician indebted to that group of people. THEN then march and demonstrate to back up those dollars. ALL we do is march and think Obama should care. Who would you help, the people who just gave you millions or the people who expect something just because they voted?
    Obama got on the phone with Jason Collins within two days of him coming out. Why? Because the gay community in California alone gave Obama over 8 million dollars in donations for his last campaign. That was JUST in cali alone.

    The moment we put our dollars to work is the moment we’ll get our needs met, our communities provided for and our children protected.

  • Wong Chia Chi

    This is what I keep saying but nobody I know wants to hear it. Where are the black people who think like you? I need to find them.

    Like I the poster I quoted said, a felony charge makes no sense, even without all the details.

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