Kiera Wilmot Arrested; Why This Is A Blow to Science


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UPDATE: Kiera Wilmot is coming to Alabama to attend school.  Read the post here: http://geekalabama.com/2013/05/14/kiera-wilmot-is-coming-to-alabama-for-school/

This story has spread like wildfire and in the geek and nerd community, this story has put a lot of shame in schools.  On April 22nd, 16-year-old Kiera Wilmot decided to conduct a science experiment at Bartow High School.  The experiment involved combining household cleaner and aluminum foil in an eight ounce water bottle.  The chemical reaction created a pop that sounds like a firecracker and smoke.  No one was injured and no damage was caused.  Normally, this story might end with the student being given a warning.  But this story takes a dark twist.  Kiera Wilmot was arrested, yes arrested, over a science experiment.   Just in case you didn’t know what Kiera was experimenting with, here’s a video showing you.

School staff witnessed the science experiment, then her science teacher was asked if they sanctioned the project.  The teacher said no.  The responding officer, upon the suggestion of Florida Assistant State attorney Tammy Glotfelty, arrested Wilmot, charging her with possessing or discharging weapons or firearms at a school sponsored event or on school property and possessing any destructive devices.  Both counts are felonies and she will be tried as an adult.

Wilmot has also been expelled from school and will complete the rest of her high school education in an expulsion program.  The Polk County, FL school district said the incident was in direct violation of its conduct code and her expulsion will not be overturned.  Wilmot will be able to challenge her expulsion.  If nothing changes and if Kiera Wilmot is convicted.  She will be blacklisted and shunned for the rest of her life.  It’s just like a scarlet letter ‘F’ tattooed to her forehead, she will be forever branded a felon.  And for what?  A mistake in judgment?  Curiosity run amok?  Was there intent to do harm, to inflict pain or instill fear and terror?  No!

I am disgusted by the possible criminalization of a good student’s natural curiosity.  No one was harmed, no intention to harm was there.  There was no ‘discharge of a weapon’, there was a pop sound and some smoke.  People can do worse during the Summer time when grilling or sitting by a campfire.  The charges against this young lady are absurd.  I hate to bring this up; but I wonder if she was taken to Juvenile Detention and charged with a felony because she was black.  If Kiera Wilmot was white, would she even be charged?

From WTSP-TV

From WTSP-TV

High schools around the country should be encouraging kids to take chemistry class.  Sometimes in chemistry, you get a small explosion.  It’s all part of a student’s curiosity.   Students experiment and sometimes the experiment can have some interesting consequences.  Some people are wondering if this arrest is part of a pipeline where minorities are sent from school to prison in a school to prison pipeline.  I seriously think this whole situation has everything to do with the color of her skin.

This whole situation has many scientists and engineers up in arms!  All scientists and engineers have had to go through classes in high school and college and I am sure some experiments had some interesting results.  As a nation, we should be making science cool and hip.  Not threaten our potential future scientists and engineers with prison because of a small explosion.  Even at school anyone can make a mistake.  Police should not be worrying about an honor student who had a science fair experiment gone awry.  Police and officials should be worrying about kids who don’t attend school or struggle through school.

Shows like Mythbusters is making science cool.  We should be showing all kids, especially minorities and women, that science can be an rewarding career decision.  We need more minorities and women in math, engineering, technology and science, not less!  Adults are totally failing at preparing this next generation for adulthood.  Teens require guidance, instruction, and the opportunity to try out new knowledge.  Sometimes that means letting them take measured risks and helping them recover even if it was all bad.  Some communities are willing to throw a child away for stupid, silly, and unsafe antics.  Is this how we prepare the next generation of citizens, leaders, workers, and scientists?  Isn’t childhood when mistakes are supposed to be made so you can learn from them?

I hope these charges are dropped against Kiera Wilmot.  I also hope some scientists and engineers will help out Kiera Wilmot and mentor her so she can be ready for college.  If somehow this case goes all the way through court and Kiera Wilmot is convicted.  It will be a huge blow to the science community.  You might as well throw away the United States reputation as a leader in science because the police will throw you in jail if you do one simple experiment.

Sign the petition to drop the charges against Kiera Wilmot at: http://www.change.org/petitions/state-attorney-jerry-hill-drop-charges-against-kiera-wilmot

Donate money to help with the Kiera Wilmot defense fund at: https://www.crowdtilt.com/campaigns/help-keira-with-her-legal-bills-she-was-expelled-and-charged-with-felony-after-a-harmless-science-mistake/description

Hang in there Kiera Wilmot, you still have a bright future ahead of you even though some adults thinks you should be placed in jail.

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