Thursday, May 2, 2013

Florida teen arrested and charged with 3 felonies after science experiment explodes.

Kiera Wilmot was experimenting with mixing toilet bowl cleaner and pieces of aluminum foil in a water bottle outside but still on school grounds. Bartow High School assistant principal Dan Durham, in charge of discipline, heard the explosion and called police. 

I ask who here hasn't mixed up some sort of science experiment out of curiosity or even out of a valid desire to win a up coming science fair? I know I have many times. I was never arrested for it, most of us never were. However for Miss. Wilmost the reaction was that she was expelled and marched off in handcuffs, accused of felony possession/discharge of a dangerous weapon. She is now facing 3 felony charges and will be charged as an adult.

“She is a good kid,” principal Ron Pritchard was quoted as saying by local media. “She has never been in trouble before. Ever.”

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. 
No one who knew her in Bartow, FL. had anything negative to say about this girl. "An exemplary record" they say she had. "A good student" they call her.
The police report, filed by Bartow investigating officer Gregory Rhoden, said Wilmot told Durham “she was conducting a science fair experiment.”
No one was hurt and no property was damaged. But Florida assistant state attorney Tammy Glotfelty, contacted by Rhoden, “advised this officer to file a charge of possessing or discharging weapons or firearms” at school.
Polk County Schools, in a statement, said the incident Monday “was a serious breach of conduct.”
Bartow police spokesman Sgt. David Wyant said whether or not it really was a science experiment is something the state attorney general’s office has to decide.
“That was her excuse,” he said. “We can’t prove that.”
Pritchard was quoted by the local Ledger of Lakeland newspaper as saying he was standing nearby when he heard a pop.
“She left it on the ground, and she stayed there,” he said. “We went over to where she was. She saw that we saw her, so she didn’t take off.”
You might image from this reaction 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. There were even some kids in the vicinity, all curious too. She believed, and was informed by a friend, that there would only be harmless smoke and not the small explosion. 
Polk County Schools released 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."

But is charging a 16 year old as an adult for 3 felonies really upholding rules in a code of conduct? Her only visible crime: Her science project doesn't appear to have been an officially sanctioned by school as an educational experiment.
Now she faces the "F-word" she faces being called a Felon. This could ruin her life. Take away her rights. She faces years of imprisonment, a ruined education, a future of dead end jobs because no one will be willing to look past her label of "felon"
Who's truly exercising the wrong judgement here? A child of 16 who was merely curious and didn't think her actions would cause any harm? Or a school and state seemingly bent on making an example out of her to prevent any more kids from truly seeking out the process of science and experimentation. 

The science community has come together for the sake of Miss. Wilmot
By Thursday morning, 3,400 people had signed a petition on Change. org asking Polk County to rescind the expulsion. Facebook and Twitter campaigns were also up and rolling.
Scientific American published two essays in support of Wilmot. Nature Geoscience wrote in her defense  Scientists also created a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #KieraWilmot.
“Most of us didn’t become scientists because of something that happened in a classroom,” Dr. Danielle Lee, who wrote one of the essays, told the Star.
“She wanted to see for herself. That is a classic experiment. Sometimes things blow up.”
“When I was a child, I discovered the calcium hypochlorite and polyethylene glycol reaction,” Joel Bondurant posted on Twitter.
“Blew up a capacitor,” wrote Geoffrey Seitz.

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