A 16 year old student in Bartow, Florida was arrested under felony charges earlier this week after a science experiment caused smoke and a loud noise on school property.
Kiera Wilmot* mixed toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil in an 8oz plastic bottle for a science experiment after hearing it would produce non-toxic smoke from a friend. The reaction caused the top to pop off and smoke to come out of the bottle. No one was injured and no property was damaged. When questioned by the principal and teacher, Wilmot responded that it was a science experiment, but after it was determined that the teacher had not known of her experiment, the police were called. Wilmot was charged with felony possession/discharge of a firearm and discharging a destructive device. She will be charged as an adult. Wilmot was also expelled from school and will have to complete her high school degree through an expulsion program.
Principal Ron Pritchard told reporters that he believed she was simply doing an experiment. “She made a bad choice. Honestly, I don’t think she meant to ever hurt anyone. She wanted to see what would happen and was shocked by what it did. Her mother is shocked, too… She is a good kid. She has never been in trouble before. Ever… She told us everything and was very honest,” he continued. “She didn’t run or try to hide the truth. We had a long conversation with her.” A statement released by the Polk County School district said “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.”
Kathleen Nolan, Princeton lecturer and author of Police in the Hallways: Discipline in an Urban High School told reporters “This young woman faces expulsion, felony charges and a criminal record because of what appears to be misguided curiosity. These zero-tolerance laws have put into place a mindlessness where individuals no longer think through these kind of situations and use their discretion.”
*Though the student in question is only 16, her name was used since she will be tried as an adult.