Scientific inquiry is a trait often cultivated from the cradle. With a push for an increase in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) degrees by Florida Governor Rick Scott, these qualities are becoming more coveted by the day. However, in the case of Kiera Wilmot, a 16-year-old Bartow High School student, simple scientific curiosity gone awry has caused a criminal investigation and life-changing consequences.
Wilmot was arrested at her school on April 22 for allegedly detonating a water bottle filled with an explosive concoction of common household chemicals. The bottle mixed toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil and the experiment reportedly created a small explosion, in which the cap popped off, and produced smoke.
Despite the fact that no one was hurt and no property was damaged, because of the school’s “zero-tolerance” policy, Wilmot was charged with felony possession/discharge of a weapon on school property and felony discharge of a destructive device. She has been expelled and must now finish high school in an expulsion program.
According to the Miami New Times, Wilmot was a good student and she told police that she was simply conducting a science experiment. Bartow’s school principle, Ron Pritchard, was even recorded defending the student to a local news outlet, The Ledger.
“She left it [the bottle] on the ground, and she stayed there,” Pritchard said. “We went over to where she was. She saw that we saw her, so she didn’t take off.”
The reaction to Wilmot’s arrest throughout social media and the scientific community has been hugely supportive of the student while critical of the school’s zero-tolerance policy. Online petitions from Change.org and the American Civil Liberties Union have been circulating throughout the Internet in an effort to prevent what many see as scientific curiosity from ruining a very promising student’s future.