Target: Polk County School District Superintendent Dr. John Stewart and the Bartow Police Department Chief Joe Hall
Goal: Drop the felony charges and expulsion of a young student who accidentally created a small explosion on school grounds.
Kiera Wilmot is a 16-year-old student who attended Bartow High School where she earned good grades and, until recently, had a perfect behavioral record. One morning before classes began, Wilmot decided to conduct her own science experiment outdoors by mixing toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil in a plastic water bottle. The mixture, whose effects have been documented in hundreds of videos on YouTube, caused the lid to pop off and produce a small amount of smoke. No one was hurt, and the school’s principal explained that Wilmot did not run from the scene and explained her honest intentions to police and administrators. She did not receive detention or a lecture about safety when conducting experiments with chemicals. Instead, Wilmot has been expelled from school and charged with two felonies.
Police charged the young student with possession/discharge of a weapon on school property and discharging a destructive device; she will be tried as an adult. Wilmot’s actions were clearly not intended to cause harm to anyone or to school property, and classifying the “device” as a weapon is quite a stretch considering her intentions and the fact that it did not result in any damage. Wilmot’s classmates came to her defense saying that it was “a science project gone bad…she never meant to hurt anyone.” The principal also explains, “She made a bad choice. Honestly, I don’t think she meant to ever hurt anyone….She told us everything and was very honest. She didn’t run or try to hide the truth.”
Due to the school district and police department’s complete lack of understanding of the situation, a young person’s life has been turned upside down. True education consists of encouraging a student’s intellectual interests and finding ways to safely explore them. It also consists of appropriately correcting a young person’s “bad choice” so that she may learn from her mistakes. Sign the petition below to tell the school district and police that in no way does Wilmot’s actions warrant an expulsion, arrest, and felony charges.
Dear Dr. John Stewart and Chief Joe Hall,
Kiera Wilmot is a 16-year-old girl living in Polk County. Until recently, she attended Bartow High School where she maintained good academic standing and a perfect behavioral record. Her classmates and teachers can attest to her good character, and former principal says Kiera has “never been in trouble before. Ever.” Yet she has been expelled from school and charged with two felonies because she attempted to perform her own science experiment by mixing toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil in a plastic water bottle, which caused the lid to pop off and produce a small amount of smoke. No one was hurt. Kiera did not run away or lie to administrators when confronted. She openly and honestly discussed the incident with her principal and police.
Considering a person’s intentions has always been a major factor in the investigation of a situation, but it appears this key element has been ignored in this case. It is clear that Kiera did not intend to cause harm to anyone at school. She was simply satisfying her curiosity about chemical reactions, a routine part of science class. What child hasn’t wondered, “What would happen if…?” No one is denying that her decision was misguided; she should not have attempted an experiment without guidance of a teacher. But to reward her honest intentions by expelling her and charging her with possession/discharge of a weapon on school property and discharging a destructive device is—to put it mildly—an overreaction of the police and school administrators. The “device” was not wielded as a weapon and caused no destruction.
Because of this gross overreaction and lack of understanding, a young person’s life has been turned upside down. Unless you step in to correct the situation, Ms. Wilmot will be tried as an adult. Real education occurs when a student’s intellectual interests are encouraged and safely explored. Real education occurs when a student’s poor choices are appropriately corrected so that she may learn from her mistakes. Your punishment does not fit her “crime.” We demand that you drop the charges against Kiera Wilmot and allow her to continue her education at Bartow High School.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Dsw4 via Wikimedia Commons