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Kiera Wilmot, 16, Arrested, Expelled And Charged With Felonies for Bad Science Experiment

Kiera Wilmot, alleged felon. (Credit: WTSP-TV Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

Updated

Kiera Roslyn Wilmot, a 16-year-old Florida high school student, had everything going for her as a top-notch student at Bartow High School. But all that changed on Monday, April 23, when Wilmot was arrested and charged with two felonies for “possession/discharge of a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device.” She has been expelled and will be tried as an adult.

It all sounds pretty scary until you get to the description of this so-called “device”:  two household chemicals mixed into an eight-ounce plastic water bottle, which caused the top to pop off and created some smoke. That’s it. No one was hurt, no property was damaged.

Wilmot insisted she was just conducting a science experiment to determine how the two chemicals would react. After the pop, she didn’t run or hide. Her friends and even the principle of her school agree that it was simply a “science project gone bad.”

But in the age of “zero tolerance” and the school-to-prison pipeline, none of that seems to matter.

The Miami News Times obtained a copy of the police report, which says Wilmot mixed toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil, “a combination generally produces a fairly unimpressive explosion”, according to the Times.

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Polk County Schools defended their decision to expel Wilmot, telling the Times that she violated the school’s code of conduct which mandates expulsion for any “student in possession of a bomb (or) explosive device… while at a school (or) a school-sponsored activity… unless the material or device is being used as part of a legitimate school-related activity or science project conducted under the supervision of an instructor.”

It’s unclear why the principal backing her claim about conducting a science experiment isn’t enough for her actions to qualify as “school-related activity.”

Nevertheless, Wilmot will be finishing her education in an expulsion program and she will be tried as an adult. That may sound harsh, but it’s in keeping with the overreactions we’ve seen in schools around the country, particularly involving students of color.

Davey D posted the following contact information for people to call, write to and yell at over the unfair treatment of Kiera Wilmot:

Bartow High School Principal Ronald Pritchard / Address: 1270 S Broadway Ave Bartow, FL 33830 / EMAIL: Ronald.Pritchard@polk-fl.net PHONE:(863)- 534-7400 Fax: (863)534-0077

Polk County Superintendent: Dr. John Stewart /Address: 1915 South Floral Avenue, Bartow, FL 33831 Phone: (863) 534-0521 Fax: (863) 519-8231 Email: Dr. John Stewart

UPDATE I: Someone has started a Change.org petition demanding that Bartow High School and the Bartow Police Department drop the charges against Kiera Wilmot.

Also, several readers are saying the contact information for the police department is inaccurate (thanks for letting me know!).

Please direct your rightful outrage about Kiera’s arrest to the Bartow Police Department:

PHONE: 863.534.5034

FAX: 863.534.5030

lbryan.pd@cityofbartow.net.

I also highly recommend flooding the Bartow Police Department’s Facebook page with your thoughts, which you can find here.

UPDATE II: The Assistant State Attorney who made the decision to charge Kiera with two felonies did the exact opposite two days later when she announced no charges would be filed against a 13-year-old white kid who accidentally shot and killed his 10-year-old brother.

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35 Comments
  1. I received an email back from pio@polksheriff.org saying “this case was handled by the Bartow Police Department, not our agency.” I believe a better place to direct the email would be lbryan.pd@cityofbartow.net which is the email listed on the Barstow Police Department’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bartow.police/info

    May 1, 2013
    • Thanks Rachel, I corrected the contact information.

      May 1, 2013
    • Ghebre #

      What makes it criminal to a “science project went horribly wrong” ???????????

      Little did you know, MANY UNIVERSITIES & THE INDUSTRY, MADE HORRIBLE MISTAKES BEFORE GETTING IT RIGHT. Should thy be charged with crimes for “Science projects going wrong”

      Read or see the documentary life story of Howard Hughes “THE AVIATOR” & learn how many HORRIBLE “ACCIDENTS” Howard Hughes made establishing his AIRPLANE INDUSTRY, before he got right, for you to FLY SAFE IN AIRPLANES.

      NOW,,, Should we Prosecute all the High Schools, Colleges, Universities, Industries & Scientists who made “science project went horribly wrong”, through our human history ???

      Too bad,,, Paranoid society sees criminals all over the mirror.

      Lynching the highschool student for a high school Science project ,,, “She has been expelled and will be tried as an adult”,,, is ended a travesty of justice.

      The DA is far more CRIMINAL for lynching the highschool student for a high school Science project than the student Science project could ever be.

      THE STUDENT SHOULD SUE THE DA & THE STATE & THE HIGH SCHOOL, FOR VIOLATING THE CIVIL RIGHTS OF THE STUDENT.

      May 4, 2013
  2. Peter Hindrup #

    The kids had better not shake up a bottle of coke, then, had they? Nor blow up a balloon and ‘pop’ it!

    The level of stupidity is really difficult to understand!

    May 1, 2013
    • Ghebre #

      What makes it criminal to a “science project went horribly wrong” ???????????

      Little did you know, MANY UNIVERSITIES & THE INDUSTRY, MADE HORRIBLE MISTAKES BEFORE GETTING IT RIGHT. Should thy be charged with crimes for “Science projects going wrong”

      Read or see the documentary life story of Howard Hughes “THE AVIATOR” & learn how many HORRIBLE “ACCIDENTS” Howard Hughes made establishing his AIRPLANE INDUSTRY, before he got right, for you to FLY SAFE IN AIRPLANES.

      NOW,,, Should we Prosecute all the High Schools, Colleges, Universities, Industries & Scientists who made “science project went horribly wrong”, through our human history ???

      Too bad,,, Paranoid society sees criminals all over the mirror.

      Lynching the highschool student for a high school Science project ,,, “She has been expelled and will be tried as an adult”,,, is ended a travesty of justice.

      The DA is far more CRIMINAL for lynching the highschool student for a high school Science project than the student Science project could ever be.

      THE STUDENT SHOULD SUE THE DA & THE STATE & THE HIGH SCHOOL, FOR VIOLATING THE CIVIL RIGHTS OF THE STUDENT.

      May 4, 2013
  3. Funny because I put life savers in a coke bottle with a friend when I was in high school and it exploded much bigger than we thought it would. No consequences. I wonder if it would’ve been the same reaction had Kiera Wilmot been white, upper-middle class, or had a connection in the law enforcement industry in Florida.

    May 1, 2013
  4. Reblogged this on Big Blue Dot Y'all and commented:
    This is beyond tragic. I really hope she get justice,

    May 1, 2013
  5. N. Weston #

    To Rania Khalek: I think your original post includes contact information for the wrong people about the criminal charges. Here is the text of the e-mail I just got from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office:

    “The information posted online about this story is inaccurate. This case was handled by the Bartow Police Department, not our agency.

    The online petition that was created has been corrected, and we are still in the process of correcting the inaccurate contact information that is spreading via the Internet.

    Respectfully,

    PCSO”

    May 1, 2013
    • Thanks so much for the heads up :)

      May 1, 2013
  6. Billy Cain #

    Here is what I emailed the principle:

    Seems to me that the school should have had advance knowledge of the project, making the school liable for the felony itself. Isn’t that just as bad?

    Please reconsider your position.
    bjc

    May 1, 2013
  7. I read this shit and I swear I’m in some bizzaro world. My first reaction is always, “un-f***ing-believable”… however, stories of this ilk are not only believable, they’ve become expected. Just extremely sad, disgusting, and shameful.

    May 1, 2013
    • physics are fun #

      a plastic bottle, bleach, ammonia and a few other items found at home can result in serious injury, would you still be as self serving if all the kids just started experimenting on the school grounds and someone got hurt ? You didn’t even mention that it’s all because she’s black, and the school is full of racists……I think you are slipping.

      May 2, 2013
  8. Edward N. Vim #

    Very, very sad story that reflects badly on our current culture. I hope is this girl eventually ends up in a school that will help her reach her full potential, it’s really obvious that Bartow H.S. has a lot of serious administration problems that don’t help but hinder the students’ educational growth there.
    She must absolutely know that she is not at fault on this matter, it’s the adults around her that are the real problem. They just don’t have the mental capacity to understand how punishment should be in direct accordance to the crime committed. She made a harmless mistake, an educational one, and nothing more than that. This should also be a wake-up call for the parents of the other students at Barlow — do you think your son or daughter is actually getting a good education at a school run by people with such limited viewpoints?

    May 2, 2013
  9. Jay McTyier #

    The policeman tells us in the report who was the first person to make this dumb-ass call to arrest and charge the girll: Tammy Glotfelty. She works for the Fla. State Attorney’s office at 255 N. Broadway Ave. Bartow, FL 33830-9000 Phone: (863) 534-4800 Fax: (863) 534-4945. That’s where efforts to persuade authorities to drop charges need to go. Also, if Tammy Glotfelty feels (more than a) little heat for her call, well, could not happen to a nicer girl.

    May 2, 2013
  10. Here is another petition to the Polk County School District not expel Kiera, and to instead support their science students:

    http://www.change.org/petitions/polk-county-school-district-don-t-expel-kiera-wilmot

    May 2, 2013
  11. physics are fun #

    I find it hard to believe that an A student would mix hose hold chemicals “just to experiment” to see what happens,…..at school. She knew what would happen, and wanted to show her friends and even though an insignificant volatile reaction occurred, she is still in a dangerous violation of school grounds policy. What do you tell the parents of kids after one brings some bleach, ammonia and other assorted items to show off on the playground ?

    May 2, 2013
    • asdf #

      I was an A student back in the day and I did stupid things like that all the time – at home and occasionally at school Did I know what would happen when I mixed HCl and Al, of course. Did I know what would happen when I lit a match – of course! Did I know what I was doing when I designed, built, and used a circuit to charge/discharge capacitors at 300 V to make a coil gun – naturally! Dry ice pulse devices? Improvised rocket fuel from potassium nitrate and sugar? Damn right I knew what I was doing and I enjoyed it. With and without supervision, I did all these things and didn’t give a damn what the rules were (or my teachers who helped me after class) – because I was in school to learn and I wasn’t going to let school get in the way of my education (apologies to Twain).

      Many years later, I’m working in space mission design and still in school getting my PhD in physics.

      It’s precisely dumb things like this that inspires students to get into STEM, even if they don’t know what they’re doing. If I saw my kids bringing together all sorts of household cleaners I’d make sure to teach them the science behind it and some basic safety and let them have a blast – literally.

      May 2, 2013
    • erdna #

      Good job on reading the full report dumb ass. A friend told her to mix the chemicals. And even if that wasnt the case you actually feel as though she should be charged as an adult with two felonies to her name for this?

      YES what she did was wrong, which may deserve a slap on the write at most. Not two felony charges on her record. WTF is wrong with you people?!

      May 3, 2013
    • AnonCanada #

      You tell them off, give them some extra homework, parents can ground them for being stupid — but that’s about it. It’s called parenting and it’s also called being young, inexperienced, and sometimes stupid. We’ve all gone through that. Except most of us today’s adults had the luxury that we were not dealing with idiotic state that’s overbearing and overreacting. This one incident has the potential to ruin this girl’s life – or at the very least make it really hard.

      May 6, 2013
  12. richard matesic #

    Rania:

    Thank you for bringing this outrage to my attention. My email to the Bartow SI, Asst. SI, and Chief of Police, is below.

    Mr. Harper, Ms. Woodring, and Chief Hall:

    I write with regard to Kiera Wilmot, who was recently expelled from her school community, and charged as a felon, for what has been described in the media as an incident involving the mixing of common household chemicals.

    If the media accounts are true, I must conclude that Ms. Wilmot is not a terrorist, nor even a budding one. You, on the other hand have participated in a campaign to terrorize her, her family and friends, her classmates, her teachers, and the community at large, by subjecting Ms. Wilmot to prosecution as a felon in circumstances that can only be described as cynical, to the extent they are not entirely insane.

    All of you have been entrusted with the care of children. Somehow, that solemn responsibility has been swept aside in favor of the need to demonstrate your supposed commitment to law and order. But you have utterly failed in this endeavor. A commitment to law and order cannot be demonstrated where the result is as absurd as the one which now confronts Ms. Wilmot, which is so lacking in judgment and common sense as to breed contempt for the law. Each of you has demonstrated a profound inability to reflect on the implications of your actions. Each of you owes Ms. Wilmot and her family, as well as the Bartow community at large, a full and meaningful apology. And none of you should be permitted to continue working in the jobs that you now hold.

    I hope and trust that Ms. Wilmot’s family makes whatever legal arrangements are necessary to ensure that you receive the full financial and professional punishments you so richly deserve, and which now almost certainly await you.

    May 2, 2013
  13. richard matesic #

    Whoops. And sorry. My IDs for the SI and Asst SI are for Bartow, GA, not Bartow, FL, so don’t anybody use them. I’ll be resending in a moment to the correct administrators.

    May 2, 2013
  14. richard matesic #

    Better:

    Mr. Stewart and Chief Hall:

    I write with regard to Kiera Wilmot, who was recently expelled from her school community, and charged as a felon, for what has been described in the media as an incident involving the mixing of common household chemicals.

    If the media accounts are true, I must conclude that Ms. Wilmot is not a terrorist, nor even a budding one. You, on the other hand have participated in a campaign to terrorize her, her family and friends, her classmates, her teachers, and the community at large, by subjecting Ms. Wilmot to prosecution as a felon in circumstances that can only be described as cynical, to the extent they are not entirely insane.

    Both of you have been entrusted with the care of children. Somehow, that solemn responsibility has been swept aside in favor of the need to demonstrate your supposed commitment to law and order. But you have utterly failed in this endeavor. A commitment to law and order cannot be demonstrated where the result is as absurd as the one which now confronts Ms. Wilmot, which is so lacking in judgment and common sense as to breed contempt for the law. Each of you has demonstrated a profound inability to reflect on the implications of your actions. Each of you owes Ms. Wilmot and her family, as well as the Bartow community at large, a full and meaningful apology. And neither of you should be permitted to continue working in the jobs that you now hold.

    I hope and trust that Ms. Wilmot’s family makes whatever legal arrangements are necessary to ensure that you receive the full financial and professional punishments you so richly deserve, and which now almost certainly await you.

    May 2, 2013
  15. Gp #

    This is commonly known as an “acid bomb”. My son’s middle school was just put on lockdown today due to a number of these being planted on campus. Local sheriff and hazmat are on-scene doing an investigation. They can do serious damage to someone if they pick it up and it goes off. One can find simple instructions online how to make one.

    The young lady may have been unaware of what she was doing but an explosive device is an explosive device.

    May 2, 2013
    • Linda C #

      Have you seen one go off? They look pretty much like a baking soda and vinegar reaction taking place in an enclosed environment. It is not a bomb.Okay, maybe someone could have been hurt if the top popped off to vigorously and she should face some consequences at school. But–a FELONY CHARGE? She is a promising young person who could contribute a great deal to society, unless of course society ruins her life first.

      May 3, 2013
  16. OMG, This is SO ‘over the top’, that it’s UNBELIEVABLE.

    May 2, 2013
  17. Lisa Patrell #

    Use this link to sign a petition to support Keira Wilmot
    http://www.change.org/petitions/the-bartow-police-and-bartow-high-school-drop-charges-against-kiera-wilmot?utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition

    May 2, 2013
  18. Hannah #

    This girl has been expelled, will be tried as an adult on felony charges…Meanwhile, there are terrorists out here bringing explosives on trains with the intentions of creating harm and we do nothing. America, we are going to kill ourselves. If we continue to make all the “other” people in America, the bad guys, while ignoring white Americans, then we’re going to be a culture plagued with violence from white rage. It’s really sad because I believe we will self destruct if we don’t stop using divisive politics and justice to divide the people in America. We’ve got to stop

    May 3, 2013
  19. Sam #

    Based on the incident this week in North Carolina, this isn’t a race thing, it’s the typical knee-jerk over-reaction. It’s time for the schools to stop over-reacting and start really looking into specific actions before possibly ruining a student’s life for what may have been poor judgement. She’s 16, give her a break!

    May 3, 2013
  20. YOUR MOM #

    IM so sick of black mofos putting the whole race issue in every damn thing.
    You thing a black president, own TV show, Radio, churches, Events etc would be enough.
    This is why the N word is in effect cause of some of you ignorant mutha fers.
    White kid ACCIDENTALLY shot his kid brother. ACCIDENTALLY!
    They didnt bring the gun to school. Kids are killing each other, blowing up sh*T, shooting up schools. its common sense.
    Its a default charge.The judge is not going to leave it as a felony.The attorney is simply making a scare tactic for the kids int he schools.

    SO stop being negative idiots, Do your research and stop getting your info form the half asses news and blogs. YOU ARE A DAMN IDIOT

    May 3, 2013
    • YOUR DAD #

      And i am black so dont use your limited mind to think im white. I REST MY CASE…

      May 3, 2013
    • erdna #

      So you saying its ok to charge this 16 year old with two felonies, as an adult (which carry up to a 5 year sentence) because “The attorney is simply making a scare tactic for the kids int he schools.”

      And your calling who the idiot? Believe me if this showed up on CNN tonight whites and blacks would be up in arms and they would drop this case so fast it wouldnt even be funny.

      May 3, 2013
  21. darrell #

    Florida, Are all you guys that racist?

    May 8, 2013
  22. anc #

    When the chemical and foil react it produces a loud boom and some foam comes out of the bottle the foam causes severe burns to the skin I’ve seen it happen she could have hurt others yes but I don’t think its felony worthy

    May 29, 2013

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