BARTOW, FL — A 16-year-old girl was arrested and expelled from school after she demonstrating the traditional ‘erupting volcano’ in class as a science experiment. Even a year later, she is still being haunted by the multiple felonies she was charged with.
Kiera Wilmot’s volcano was designed to demonstrate a chemical reaction simulating a volcanic eruption. Inside her volcano prop, was an 8-ounce water bottle with some toilet bowl cleaner in it. When the cleaner is exposed to aluminum, it creates an exothermic chemical reaction.
Her experiment got her in serious trouble on April 29th, 2013.
“When I put the aluminum foil into the bottle, the lid popped off an a little bit of smoke climbed out of the bottle,” Kiera described.
No one was hurt. No damage was caused. No harm was done.
“The principal asked what was going on, and I told him it was just a little science experiment,” Kiera continued. She was pulled out of class and led to the office by a school resource officer.
“They didn’t read me any rights,” Kiera said to the Huffington Post. “They arrested me after sitting in the office for a couple minutes. They handcuffed me. It cut my wrist, and really hurt sitting on my hands behind my back.”
She was charged with possession/discharge of a weapon on school grounds, and discharging a destructive device, both felonies.
“She is a good kid,” said Bartow High School principal Ron Pritchard to WTSP. “She has never been in trouble before. Ever.”
Despite the principal conceding that it was obvious that Wilmot meant no harm, she was expelled anyway. Wilmot was punished to send a message to other students that their zero tolerance policies were to be enforced, whether the situation makes sense or not. As the school published in a press release:
“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.”
The felonies she faced, if convicted, presented a prospect of years in prison and a jeopardized future.
Watch a video on Kiera’s situation here:
Although prosecutors eventually declined to pursue Kiera as a criminal, the charges themselves continue to taint Kiera’s record and impede her future success.
“All my charges have been dropped, but the lawyer says that it takes 5 years to clear each felony off the record,” Kiera said.
The Advancement Project is presenting Wilmot’s story as an example of what they call the “School-to-Prison Pipeline.”
Still unclear about how this incident will affect her future, Wilmot wants to be an engineer “building robots that can do tasks like surgeries or driving cars.”