Expelled girl's 'bomb': Toilet cleaner and foil

As the scientific community rallies around Kiera Wilmot, the 16-year-old expelled for a scientific experiment gone slightly awry, court papers reveal hers was an ordinary experiment. The school, meanwhile, insists it did the right thing.

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

People like to claim that education is in crisis.

But it's surely no more in crisis than humanity itself, as it veers toward an unknown future while leering into screens for its solution.

However, Bartow High School in Florida garlanded itself in a particularly educative spirit this week by expelling a 16-year-old girl for putting a couple of chemicals into an 8-ounce water bottle and watching it go bang.

Should this tale not have exploded before your eyes this week, Kiera Wilmot wasn't merely expelled for this misdeed on school premises, she was also charged with felony possession and discharge of a dangerous weapon.

Naturally, some people were rather disturbed by the authorities' actions in this regard. Especially as her school principal described her as someone who got good grades and never caused trouble.

Many members of the scientific community have railed against the apparent ludicrousness of the school district. Researcher Andrew David Thaler perhaps summated this incident -- in which no one was hurt and no property was damaged -- best in his compendium of those who, in their early years, had experiments gone awry -- far more awry than this one.

Some have found their faculties temporarily frozen after it emerged that Tammy Glotfelty, the same prosecutor who insisted on charging Wilmot, decided not to issues charges in the case of a 13-year-old boy who fatally shot his 10-year-old brother this week.

Now court papers (embedded below) have been released that offer a little more flesh to the carcass of the school's and local police's stance.

The deadly chemicals in question were toilet cleaner and aluminum foil.

As the Miami New Times reports, the school claims it called the police after Wilmot's science teacher disavowed any knowledge of the experiment Wilmot performed. It seems initiative at Bartow High School is a thing to be feared.

Wilmot, on the other hand, told police that her friend had suggested it and she "thought it would cause some smoke."

Instead, gosh and golly, her principal said it sounded like a firecracker.

For its part, the school continues to insist it did the right thing.

Leah Lauderdale, a spokeswoman for the Polk County School District, told the Miami New Times: "We urge our parents to convey to their kids that there are consequences to their actions."

How very adult.

But did the action here truly merit the consequences of expulsion and a felony charge that will hang over Wilmot for the rest of her life?

Were there no consequences that might have been, say, more fitting to the water bottle experiment? Detention wouldn't have been appropriate? A week's suspension, perhaps? Or even, perish the idea, a little education?

Wilmot was clear with police that she thought she was conducting a science fair experiment.

It's odd that neither the police nor the school district seem to have any concept of the word "fair."

Or the word "science," for that matter.

Wilmot Arrest

 

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