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25-05-13 Expelled for a Science Experiment Gone Bad

25-05-13 Expelled for a Science Experiment Gone Bad

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Published by William J Greenberg
Here's a Florida school giving an object lesson in how to be really stupid.
Here's a Florida school giving an object lesson in how to be really stupid.

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Published by: William J Greenberg on Jun 02, 2013
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06/02/2013

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Expelled for a science experiment gone bad? (photo: stock image)
Stupidity Can Be Cured
By William Boardman, Reader Supported News
25 May 13
 
 Here's a Florida school giving an object lesson in how to be really stupid.
t's not as though a bunch of white people in central Florida have been consciouslyconspiring about the best way to trash a 16-year-old black girl's life, but the effect of their collective personal and institutional stupidity may well produce the same effect.At first there was no sign that any of them much cared, but now there's a ray of hopefor a just outcome. Read on.It's not as though this cultural stupidity in Florida isn't an all-American sort of thingthat could happen anywhere, and probably has in a variety of forms similar to therecent mindlessness that led school officials to call the police who called the prosecutor who decided, over the phone, to have a 16-year-old girl arrested as an adultand charged with two felonies under state law because she did an outdoors experimentthat blew up an 8 oz. water bottle with the force of a small firecracker, doing nodamage and harming no one.This is the case of 11th grader Kiera Wilmot, a Bartow High School honor studentwith straight A's and a perfect behavior record, according to school officials.Sometime around 7 a.m. on Monday, April 22, she tried an experiment with a friendwatching: she mixed hydrochloric acid (in a toilet bowl cleaner) with a bit of 
 
aluminum foil inside a plastic water bottle, a trick known familiarly as a "Drano bomb" or "works bomb." As predicted in online descriptions (and shown in video),shortly after Kiera Wilmot mixed the ingredients and put the cap on the bottle,hydrogen gas was produced, with enough pressure to pop the top off the bottle withthe sound of a small firecracker.Arguably, that was a stupid thing to do, at least on school grounds.
So the Question Quickly Arises, Are There Any Grown-Ups Here?
Then the adults got involved and took the stupidity to higher levels, quickly producinga stupidity tsumani of an all too familiar American kind.The first adult on the scene is Dan Durham, white, the assistant principal in charge of discipline at Bartow High. He hears the bottle pop outside the building before theschool day starts. He goes to investigate. He finds Kiera Wilmot and she tells him thewhole story, such as it is.She tells him it's an experiment she was doing in anticipation of the science fair.Apparently not believing her, perhaps fearing an international terror conspiracy,Durham calls her science teacher (who remains anonymous), who says that KieraWilmot's bottle pop has nothing to do with her science class with him, so his skirts areclean. Of course what she does for science class is different from the science fair, butapparently no one tries to figure that out.Continuing his enforcement action, Dan Durham calls the cops, which is easy enoughsince there's a "resource officer" on the premises.At some point principal Ron Pritchard, white, doesn't get involved and lets thesituation continue to spin out of control. Faced with a bright young 16-year-old honor student with a perfect behavior record, who admits she just did an experiment that waslouder than she'd expected, principal Pritchard doesn't act to put Kiera Wilmot'sharmless behavior in perspective.
An Educator With a Passive-Aggressive Vicious Streak 
Instead, with a kind of passive-aggressive viciousness, he ignores the best interests of a child under his care, he doesn't exercise leadership or good judgment, he stays out of the way. Maybe he thinks he's defending the institution, or himself, but whatever hewas thinking, he lets law enforcement help make things worse.
 
And the principal knew all along what was real. Playing the kindly old duff on TVlater, he said of Kiera Wilmot: "She just wanted to see what would happen and I think it shocked her that - because she was very honest with us when we were out theretalking and I think, I think it kind of shocked her that it did that."That was a few days later, when he knew full well how his own inaction hadcontributed to Kiera Wilmot getting arrested and charged as an adult with felonycharges alleging she "discharged a weapon" and "discharged a destructive device."Kiera Wilmot's weapon/device was an 8 oz. water bottle with toilet bowl cleaner andaluminum that hurt no one and destroyed nothing.But principal Pritchard told a TV reporter: "She's a good kid and, you know, she madea bad choice and stuff and, uh - I don't think that - she was not trying to be maliciousto harm anybody or destroy something at school or anything else."In Florida educational circles, apparently, the offense of "a bad choice and stuff" ismore than enough to put a child at risk of spending 5 years in jail and having a felonyon her record for the rest of her life.
Why Would You Expect Public Servants to Exercise Any Discretion?
After school officials exercise no discretion, neither does the school's resource officer.In his report, Bartow PD school resource officer Gregory Rhoden, white,characterized the event as a "destructive device/weapons incident." Rhoden met firstwith assistant principal Durham, who was the official complainant. According to hisreport, Rhoden did not meet with the principal or anyone else other than KieraWilmot, whom he arrested, handcuffed, Mirandized, and questioned.She told Rhoden the same story principal Pritchard said she told him, except thatRhoden reports there was a male friend who helped Kiera Wilmot do her bottle popexperiment. "At this time efforts are being made to identify Wilmot's friend," wroteRhoden, a 1993 graduate of the same high school."I then contacted assistant state attorney Tammy Glotfelty via telephone. I adviseda.s.a. Glotfelty of the circumstances of the case and she advised this officer to filecharges of possessing or discharging weapons or firearms at a school sponsored eventor on school property F.S.S. 790.115(1) and making, possessing, throwing, projecting, placing, or discharging any destructive device F.S.S. 790.161 (A)," Rhoden's reportsaid.

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