Florida School Responds to Criticism for Expelling Student Over Science Project: "There Are Consequences to Actions"
By all accounts, Kiera Wilmot's science experiment gone wrong triggered just a tiny pop and a small amount of smoke at Bartow High School last week -- but her tale is certifiably blowing up the Internet today. Thanks to Reddit and Reason, thousands of people have commented on Wilmot's story, many asking the same question: How could an otherwise model student be expelled and charged with a felony over an experiment that didn't hurt anyone?
Riptide decided to call the Polk County School District to find out. The answer: The letter of the law demanded the punishment, and school administrators believe kids should learn "there are consequences to their actions."
We've also obtained a police report that indicates Wilmot mixed toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil -- a combination that has inspired hundreds of YouTube videos and generally produces a fairly unimpressive explosion.
"Unfortunately, what she did falls into our code of conduct," Leah Lauderdale, a spokeswoman for the district, tells Riptide. "It's grounds for immediate expulsion."
More specifically, Wilmot's mini-explosion -- which came after she mixed "common household chemicals" in a plastic bottle -- violates Section 7.05 of the school's conduct code, Lauderdale says, 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."
So even though Wilmot's principal acknowledges that the 16-year-old wasn't trying to hurt anyone and simply made a "bad choice," the school's rules said she had to be expelled.
Police, meanwhile, have charged her with possession/discharge of a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device.
The other most common question about her story is what kind of chemicals she was mixing. Lauderdale says she doesn't know.
Riptide has requested a police report from the Bartow Police Department to try to find the answer.
They've promised to send it our way but so far it hasn't arrived. We'll update this post when we get our hands on it.
In the meantime, Lauderdale says Wilmot can challenge her expulsion, but says she's unable to discuss whether or not the teen has done so because of student privacy rights.
The spokeswoman says the school district stands by its rules. "We urge our parents to convey to their kids that there are consequences to their actions," she says.
Continue reading for the police report and video.
Update: Bartow police have sent the incident report from Wilmot's arrest that makes it clear she was mixing toilet cleaner and aluminum foil for her experiment. According to an officer, an assistant principal heard an explosion near a gazebo on the school grounds and found Wilmot near a plastic bottle.
Wilmot told him a friend had told her to mix the two substances, but that she "thought it would just cause some smoke." She told the school official she wasn't trying to hurt anyone or disrupt school, but was simply "conducting a science fair experiment."
The assistant principal called police after talking to Wilmot's science teacher and determining he didn't know about the experiment.
Here's the arrest report:
And here's a video of some typical "explosions" caused by aluminum foil mixed with Drano-like substances:
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