Schoolgirl tries science experiment, arrested for felony

A teenage girl puts two household chemicals in a water bottle at school to see what might happen. There is a small explosion. No one is hurt. She is expelled and charged with weapons possession.

Kiera Wilmot, alleged felon. WTSP-TV Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Who among us hasn't -- just once in our lives -- put a couple of things in a test tube, a bottle, or our mouths and wondered what might happen?

Occasionally, this might have difficult consequences. But rarely does someone try to arrest us for it.

16-year-old Kiera Wilmot wasn't so lucky.

This student at Bartow High School in Florida allegedly thought she'd put a couple of household chemicals in an 8-ounce water bottle, just to see the reaction.

The reaction was that she was expelled and marched off in handcuffs, accused of felony possession/discharge of a dangerous weapon.

According to the Ledger, Wilmot performed her experiment behind the school cafeteria. There were some kids in the vicinity.

She believed that there would only be smoke and not the small explosion, which the school principal, who was standing nearby, described as sounding like a firecracker.

It doesn't appear to have been an officially sanctioned school experiment (and police reportedly wouldn't say what the chemicals were). But there is no evidence that there was any malice in her actions.

As WTSP-TV reports, Wilmot's principal, Ron Pritchard, explained that she was notorious -- for being a very nice person.

Pritchard said: "She is a good kid. She has never been in trouble before. Ever."

You might imagine, then, that this explosion caused vast damage to school buildings, which had to be evacuated.

Not quite. The top of the bottle popped off and there was some smoke. No one was hurt.

This all happened around 7 a.m., local time, on Monday of last week. Pritchard agreed that Wilmot had merely been trying an experiment.

He told WTSP: "She wanted to see what would happen (when the chemicals came together), and was shocked by what it did. Her mother is shocked too."

She was completely honest about what she had done.

This wasn't good enough for the Polk County Schools District. Oh, no, Wilmot needed to be made an example of.

The district issued this statement: "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. 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."

So, despite the fact that Wilmot reportedly told police this was nothing more than the experimentation of a curious mind, she was taken to a juvenile detention center and may now be labeled a felon.

One of the most important parts of a science education lies in the need to experiment. It's only curious minds that make the world progress.

One of the most important parts of a general education is the teaching of judgment.

Who exercised the worse judgment here? Kiera Wilmot or the Polk County Schools District and the local police?

 

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