Zero Tolerance

Zero Tolerance Watch: Teen Faces Felony Charges for Science Experiment

The case of Kiera Wilmot.

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Meet Kiera Wilmot, a 16-year-old student in Bartow, Florida. Before last week, Bartow High School Principal Ron Pritchard tells WTSP-TV, she had "never been in trouble before. Ever." But then, the station reports, she

The face of terror, apparently.

mix[ed] household chemicals in a tiny 8-ounce water bottle, causing the top to pop off, followed by billowing smoke in [a] small explosion.

Wilmot's friends and classmates said it was "a science project gone bad, that she never meant to hurt anyone."

Even the teen's principal said, "She made a bad choice. Honestly, I don't think she meant to ever hurt anyone. She wanted to see what would happen [when the chemicals mixed] and was shocked by what it did. Her mother is shocked too."

The explosion happened around 7 a.m. Monday morning on school property, and no one was hurt. Staff, along with the school resource officer, acted quickly.

The principal told 10 News, "She told us everything and was very honest. She didn't run or try to hide the truth. We had a long conversation with her."

So: No one was hurt. There's no sign that Wilmot was up to something malevolent. The kid's own principal thinks this wasn't anything more than an experiment, and he says she didn't try to cover up what she had done. What punishment do you think she received? A stern talking-to? A day or two of after-school detention? Maybe she'll have to help clean up the lab for a week?

Nope. The budding chemist has been kicked out of school and charged with a couple of felonies:

Wilmot was arrested Monday morning and charged with possession/discharge of a weapon on school property and discharging a destructive device.

The teen was expelled and will now complete her education in an expulsion program.

Miami New Times reports that Wilmot will be tried as an adult.

A statement from Polk County Schools says, "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." As far as I can tell, the only person in this story facing a serious threat to her safety and security is the girl who might have to serve a prison sentence -- but then, she doesn't go to Bartow High anymore, so perhaps the school system doesn't think she counts.

Bonus link: "5 Ridiculous School Security Scares."

Update: Three more details in this story from the Lakeland Ledger: She mixed the chemicals outside rather than indoors, she didn't leave the area afterwards, and according to police she "said she thought the materials would produce only smoke, not an explosion."

Update #2: The New Times has acquired the police report and posted it here, along with the school district's not-at-all-persuasive defense of its actions.