Honor student Kiera Wilmot was arrested and expelled from her high school when her water bottle exploded unexpectedly on school property. The school called the police who promptly arrested the math and science wiz. Once out of jail, she was not allowed back in school, causing her grades to take a serious hit. But literally hundreds of thousands of concerned people signed petitions demanding all charges against her to be dropped and her to be allowed back in school.
But the school had a “zero-tolerance” approach to “weapons” of any kind – even those that existed only in the imagination of the school and police. Her exploding water bottle was part of a science experiment gone wrong. No one was hurt, and her intention was clearly not for the bottle to explode. But instead of brushing off the mistake and praising her for her passion towards science and learning, she was treated as a criminal. Now, a felony arrest still haunts her as she enters college.
Watch the video below…
Kiera’s charges were eventually dropped and she was allowed back in school. She recounted the full details of her experience to the ACLU, and they are horrifying. Read it and weep (so to speak)…
My science teacher said we could each pick a science project that has to do with biology, chemistry or physics. He said we couldn’t do a baking soda and vinegar volcano because that was at the fifth grade level. I especially like chemistry, and the reacting. I like seeing two or more different things become something else. So I was asking friends around for project ideas. Someone suggested to me to combine aluminum foil and toilet bowl cleaner in a water bottle to make a volcano.
That morning I was taking the experiment to be approved by my teacher. My friends and I were outside, and they wanted to see how it worked. Eventually they convinced me to try it. It did not react the way I expected it to. The lid popped off and smoke came out. If I could go back in time, I definitely wouldn’t have done it.
The principal and dean of discipline came over and asked me to tell them what happened. I was kind of scared, but I thought they’d understand it was an accident. Before that, I’ve never gotten in trouble this year other than a dress code violation because my skirt was two inches too short. I told him it was my science experiment. In my third period class I was called up to discipline. I wrote a statement to the dean of discipline explaining what had happened. Afterward I was told to sit on the resource officer’s office. They told me I made a bomb on school property, and police possibly have the right to arrest me. I didn’t know what they classified as a bomb. I was worried I accidently made a bomb. I was really hurt and scared. I was crying.
They didn’t read me any rights. 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.
They took me to a juvenile assessment center. I was sitting in this room with no clock so it felt like years of me sitting there. When my mom came, she didn’t say anything. She just had this really disappointed look, and told me I lost privileges. But she’s really been supportive of me. I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t have my mom. I would have dug a hole and sat there for the rest of my life.
I don’t think police should have been involved because I’m a good student for one. And two, it was a big deal, but it wasn’t like people were hurt and the school was in shatters. I maybe should have gotten 10 days suspension or a work detail where on Saturday you wake up early and pick up trash around the school.
I was very relieved they were dropping the charges. It means I can actually do something with my life. I was afraid this would be on my criminal record. I want to go to college and get a degree in technology design and engineering. I want a career building robots that can do tasks like surgeries or driving cars.
A couple good things have come out of this. Someone heard about what happened to me and gave me a scholarship to space camp. I’m super stoked about space camp with Mr. Hickam this summer! There’s a zero-gravity tank I can’t wait to try! But it’s been pretty rough for my sister. Recently she was hit in the face by a girl. It’s been hard because we usually do everything together. I’m getting all the attention and scholarships and she feels left out.
Even though she is now in college, and charges were dropped over a year ago, Wilmot explains in a video produced by the Advancement Project that “the lawyer says it takes five years to clear each felony off the record.”
Until then, that felony is on her record, denying her opportunities in employment and education… all over a science experiment that the school and police over-reacted to.
There’s no happy-ending to this story. Even though Kiera is free and pursuing her education, these ridiculous charges still follow her around. It’s going to take the sort of mass mobilization that we saw when she was locked up in order to force change of these oppressive school policies, and the over-reaction and over-reach of police who are all to quick to put children in cuffs and lock them up behind bars, even for the most trivial of offenses.
(Article by M. David)