Kiera Wilmot's Story Blows Up, but Where's the Herald?

It all started with a loud pop and a little smoke. A week later, it blew up the internet.

Kiera Wilmot, a 16-year-old from Bartow, a small town east of Tampa, was expelled from school and — amazingly — arrested on two felony charges after a science experiment went wrong. Other than the local paper and New Times' Riptide blog, hardly anyone noticed. But then Reddit caught on to the story. Soon, advocates of both racial justice and science education were trumpeting Wilmot's cause, and everyone from Slate to the Guardian had picked up her tale.

"Already, students like Kiera are behind the curve in preparation for 21st-century jobs in science," biologist DNLee wrote in a powerful Scientific American column. "Her expulsion and arrest sends a very clear and striking message to students, especially urban students of color: Don't try this at home, or school or anywhere. Science exploration is not for you!"

Strangely, one place still hasn't picked up on Kiera's tale, even after more than a thousand comments on Riptide: the Miami Herald. It's an echo of the Trayvon Martin killing last year, which the daily also underplayed until online outrage made the unarmed teen's death a flash point.

Like Trayvon's tale, Kiera's story still has many unanswered questions. This much is clear: Wilmot's trouble began April 22, when the assistant principal at Bartow High heard a small explosion. When he ventured outside, he found the teen near a gazebo on campus next to a plastic bottle. Wilmot admitted she'd mixed toilet bowl cleaner with aluminum foil — a "science fair experiment" her friend had suggested, she said.

Wilmot, a good student with a clean record, was immediately expelled for having a "bomb" on campus. What's more, a local prosecutor named Tammy Glotfelty OK'ed police to arrest the girl on felony charges of possession of a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device — even though her principal admitted she wasn't trying to hurt anyone and had made a "bad choice."

Contacted Friday, a spokeswoman from the Polk County State Attorney's Office declined to comment on whether Wilmot's charges would be pursued, saying the case was "under investigation." A school board flack tells Riptide that Wilmot's expulsion should send a message to kids that "there are consequences to their actions."

Once Reddit picked up on the story last week, it quickly touched a nerve. Advocates such as DNLee argued Wilmot should face a small punishment but be encouraged to continue her experimenting. Hundreds of scientists began tweeting with a #KieraWilmot hashtag about everything they'd blown up in the name of science. A petition to drop the charges against her has nabbed more than 170,000 signatures.

As DNLee writes: "Science is not clean. It is very messy and it is riddled with mistakes and mishaps." So, obviously, are the courts and Florida's school system.

My Voice Nation Help

Why didn't she try her "science experiment" in a supervised science lab instead of in a gazebo on campus. I'm not condoning any actions by the student or the administration, but most kids don't light off a homemade incendiary device in a gazebo. And of course the race card comes out because she's a minority.

Exiliado topcommenter

There has been so much wrong doing in this case! Both the school principal and the prosecutor are over-reacting.

But what really blows my mind is this attempt by New Times to turn the case into a racial issue. Where's the evidence of a racial motivation?

The kid did something silly. The school over-reacted. The prosecutor over-reacted. That's it. How does skin color come into play? How is this case in any way similar to Trayvon Martin's?

For Christ sake! The Trayvon Martin case was not even supposed to be turned into a race issue!

drakemallard topcommenter

 No one wants to believe how fucked up things have become. Everyone loves to think that things are just a-okay. And what makes it worse, is no one believes they have any faults. People today think they can do no wrong.

 wilmot told authorities she was conducting a science experiment. But Bartow police say teachers told them they didn't know anything about the experiment.


A crucial piece of information confirms what was already implied in the arrest report:


Bartow police Officer Greg Rhoden stated in his report she mixed toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil in an empty 8 ounce water bottle.

"It just blew the top off the bottle," he said Monday. "It didn't fracture the bottle, but the gas that built up inside it pushed the plastic out so it looks deformed."

===  (Per The Lakeland Ledger article)

In other Kiera never designed anything remotely comparable to an actual bomb and the small bottle itself was undamaged.

And yet a lots of posters keep on repeating as a fact that the bottle was ripped to pieces that could have injured someone.  And lots of posters accuse her of lying by pretending her experiment was authorized, although there is NO evidence she lied and in fact the principal said she was "VERY HONEST" after the accident.

Many posters simply PRESUME Kiera is GUILTY of  malicious intent -- well I will just PRESUME all of them are motivated by racism (but I'm open to each of them proven beyond my reasonable doubt it is not so).


forget the herald where is polk cos big newspaper the lakeland ledger???

other than a few articles about kiera's status...there is no depth no angles no other reports looking at  how and why   this happened

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