Teen Girl Arrested and Expelled for Failed Science Project

Sixteen-year-old Kiera Wilmot was an exemplary student at Bartow High School in Bartow, Florida. With her good grades and perfect behavior record, she was every teacher’s dream student. She never got in trouble.

Now she has been labeled a criminal for life, all because of a failed science project.

On Monday, April 22, Wilmot was mixing some common household chemicals in an 8-ounce water bottle at her school when the top popped off, causing a small explosion and some billowing smoke. No damage was caused and no one was injured.

I seem to recall a similar experiment that my son carried out with vinegar and baking soda: pretty harmless stuff. I told him to clean it up and not to try it again. End of story.

But not for Wilmot.

Administrators at Bartow High School decided this was a matter for the police. Shortly after the incident, the 16-year-old was arrested and charged with an adult felony: possession/discharge of a weapon on school property and discharging a destructive device.

The teen was also expelled and will now complete her education in an expulsion program.

This is zero tolerance gone berserk: Care2 has previously brought you stories of a nine-year-old suspended for a “Kick Me” post-it, a seven-year-old suspended for making a gun out of his pop tart, and a high schooler kicked out of school for expressing herself about shootings.

Those did not involve adult criminal charges. Kiera Wilmot is being charged as an adult for a simple science project that went wrong. As a result, she will have a permanent blemish on her record, which could be used against her in applying for colleges and in seeking a job in the future.

She is being punished for doing what good teachers inspire their students to do: taking a chance, thinking creatively, experimenting. Here’s a young woman who was thriving at high school, and now all that has been taken away.

The school principal even agreed that Wilmot is a good student, that she wasn’t acting with any malicious intent.

From WTSP.com:

Chelsey Turner, a student, weighed in. “I don’t think she’s that type of person. She wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

“I heard she didn’t want to hurt anyone at all,” said another student, Dynequa Price. “It was a science project.”

School officials are urging parents to have an open and honest conversation with kids about playing around or pulling pranks on school property.

Polk County Schools released this statement today:

“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.”

Really, Polk County? Are you serious?

Do you understand what you are doing to this bright young woman, who will now undoubtedly be angry and alienated from both the school system and the judicial system for life?

This is zero tolerance at its worst. Why not try using common sense and reasoned judgement regarding intent, instead of relying on an absolutist, black-and-white interpretation of the rules? Yes, I understand that we are all on tenterhooks these days, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to punish an innocent student.

Take Action: If you agree that the reaction of Polk County Schools is outrageous, please sign our petition demanding that all charges be dropped against Kiera Wilmot and that she be reinstated at Bartow High School.


Related Care2 Coverage

Nine-Year-Old Suspended For “Kick Me” Post-It

7-Year-Old Suspended For Making A Gun Out Of His Breakfast

High Schooler Suspended For Expressing Herself About Shootings


Photo Credit: wtsp.com online video


Annmari Lundin
Annmari L2 years ago

This is, after all, Florida. A major contributor to the school-to-prison-pipeline.

Fi T.
Past Member 2 years ago

What's the point for the accusation?

Carole R.
Carole R2 years ago


Sarah Crockett
Sarah Crockett2 years ago

I signed the petition. I think zero tolerance should use common sense!

Bill Eagle
Bill Eagle2 years ago

I signed the petition. I think that the school administration is idiotic. The person who called the police should be disciplined, not the Kiera.

joyce h.
joyce h2 years ago

For those of us reading this in 2015, this in May of 2015. Charges were dropped against her, she graduated high school, and her plight attracted the attention of a benefactor who provided her and her sister with scholarships to space camp. (http://abcnews.go.com/US/cleared-charges-honor-student-space-camp/story?id=19236561)
Yes, in retrospect, the arrest seems to have been an over-reaction, but after studying the situation, it wasn't an approved "science project". This happened before school, but on school property, with friends who wanted to see what would happen, NOT in a controlled, approved situation with adult supervision. (she was waiting to get the approval of her science teacher).
I don't know. What's better in this age of guns and bombs in our schools: An over-reaction where charges are dropped, or an "under"-reaction where innocent children are put at risk?

Jose L.
Jose L.4 years ago

From the comment left at the petition:

"Esteemed school principle:

"...Thank goodness, for the sake of those who practice the Christian faith, that Jesus did not have a zero tolerance policy! Or maybe he did, and you are trying to get even. Is that it? Go ahead. Cast that stone! You aren't making a mistake now and you never will have to fear a zero tolerance for mistakes or ignorance, whether they hurt no one or even if they dent a young girl's life for being a student under the infallible principle with the chip on the shoulder. Hey, for every Galileo there is the inquisition chief afraid of harm that may come to souls under his/her care. The chief is there to suppress harmless creativity and admiration for science that may [possibly perhaps one day] endanger others or lead them astray.

"There are no important or harmful consequences to your action, principle most esteemed!!!"

Dagmar Breg
Past Member 4 years ago

This is beyond stupid. Accidents happen and no one got hurt.

E. J.
Past Member 4 years ago

If this experiment was not done in class, then it was really stupid of her-not as bright as written-results could've done harm. Hmmm, why don't I mix toilet bowl cleaner with some drano and see what happens near other students. She should be punished, not badly, but sanctions are in order. NO, it's not like mixing vinegar and baking soda (which mother provided no doubt), which if the comsumed, heaving vomit would be the result.

Ruth R.
Ruth R4 years ago

Signed the petition !
Since the school and the teachers knew or to be responsible should have known what was in the experiment -- is the school responsible for having let the experiment proceed. The student was doing an experiment -- and did not have a weapon.