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Today in Awesome

Girl Expelled For Science Experiment Has Criminal Charges Dropped, Is Now Going To Space Camp

That turned out unexpectedly well. 

We previously reported on the story of Florida high school student Kiera Wilmot. She was expelled from school and was meant to be brought up on criminal charges after producing a chemical reaction on school property. Wilmot was an exemplary student with no behavioral issues, and although no one was injured in the experiment, under the school’s code of conduct she was expelled and set to be charged with possession and discharge of a weapon and discharging a destructive device, a felony.

The event brought up serious issues of race as they pertain to the district and its police department and spurred a flurry of defense for 16-year-old Wilmot online, which included a petition to get the serious charges against her dropped. And we can now report they have been.

The State Attorney’s office issued a statement:

Based upon the facts and circumstances of the case, the lack of criminal history of the child involved, and the action taken by the Polk County School Board, the State Attorney’s Office extended an offer of diversion of prosecution to the child. The child and her guardian signed the agreement to successfully complete the Department of Juvenile Justice Diversion Program.

The pending case has been dismissed. No formal charges will be filed.

That means she might have to do some community service. While Wilmot’s fate at her school is still up in the air (she’s been attending an alternate one, separate from her twin sister Kayla), some more good news was to be had. According to BoingBoing:

Homer Hickam — the writer and former NASA engineer whose memoir is the basis of the movie October Sky — started a Crowdtilt campaign to send Wilmot and her twin sister Kayla to the Advanced Space Academy program at the U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala.. The cost of space camp can run upwards of $1200. Hickam paid for Kiera Wilmot to go and the Crowdtilt campaign raised the other $1200 for her sister, plus extra money for their travel expenses. The campaign hit its $2500 goal in just two days and is now up to $2920. Hickam says the extra money is going to the girls’ mother.

A second Crowdtilt campaign raised more than $8000 for a Kiera Wilmot Defense Fund. Now that the charges have been dropped, that money will go into a trust, to pay the few legal expenses the family does have and to cover costs associated with Wilmot’s education.

Go forth, and do good science, ladies.

(via BoingBoing)

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  • Avalon

    Well… THAT escalated quickly…

    Good for her! Hopefully this will set an example rather than an exception.

  • Shard Aerliss

    It should never have got so far, but good for her (and her sister)!

  • Elias Algorithm

    Zero tolerance = zero intelligence

  • Dianne Buss

    I do want to comment on this, because this goes beyond the ridiculous meter in my book.
    My initial reaction:
    WHERE WAS THE TEACHER!!!!!!!!! Yes, I am yelling. And don’t give me the excuse that they can’t be everywhere. If someone has expensive and dangerous chemical equipment out, you need to have supervision.
    This is the district employees and the teacher’s union attempt to cover their bases (or asses or both), protect the teacher’s job, and protect their little way of life.

    I’m a daughter of a teacher. I’m a parent. I’m a PTA member. I’ve seen the corruption, the unused equipment gathering dust, the cirriculum’s that “don’t work” because “teachers need training for it” yet they still buy it because an expert said it will raise test scores.
    My children stopped being taught as soon as that last testing bubble was circled firmly with a #2 pencil this year, now all they do is watch movies. I’m glad they are out of my hair (and taxpayers expense) but they certainly aren’t learning, except how not to teach and still get paid for it.
    Thank you for allowing me to get that off my chest.

  • Eisen

    Sorry but… teachers and parents CAN’T be everywhere, monitoring every move a child does. I don’t know how you spend your childhood, but I remember how often we as kids were unattended.

    And for “expensive and dangerous” chemical equipment – the experiment of Kiera can be done (and was done, as far as I know) with tinfoil and draincleaner.

  • Alissa Knyazeva

    To be fair to the teachers, she did this on school grounds, but in the morning, outside of class, without alerting anyone prior to doing her experiments (from what I’ve read, anyways). I don’t think it was the teachers’ fault.

    But what happened afterwards was also an extreme overreaction. No prior record or misbehaviour, and no ill intent – just give her a little slap, some detention time and/or some mandatory volunteering hours for the school and warn her than in the future she should consult the science teachers if there was an experiment she wanted to perform (especially because they might be able to get her into science fairs and stuff like that, where you can actually win awards and accolades for your work, which comes in handy for scholarship and university applications).

  • Anonymous

    I’m sorry – this is off-topic for the Mary Sue, but I’d like to respond. It sounds like you should talk to your child’s teacher about your concerns. Then, if they fail to respond, talk to your school principal. I am a teacher, so I have a couple of pieces of info that may help you make sense of the nonsense you’ve seen. 1) Districts buy programs because of the textbook-racket. There is a HUGE amount of money to be made, and they lobby hard to get District heads on board with their “revolutionary” program, while practicing educators are saying, “What? Wait! We’ve just started to get the hang of the last revolution foisted on us!” 2) These programs are almost never instinctive to follow (for teacher or student), and come with a mind boggling, time-stream-defying amount of “record-keeping” that districts always require and almost never examine…because of reasons. 3) Most teachers have a minor break-down after testing. Personally, I need a couple days to recover from the constant stress of being treated like a prison warden, children puking and peeing due to nerves, and come to terms with having done my pernicious part to undermine the educational integrity of the U.S. by having administered those stupid, stupid tests.

    Once I recover, the last weeks of school are some of my favorites – I get to teach developmentally appropriate lessons, do educational activities with my class that (gasp!) may involve art or music or science, and generally remind myself why I became a teacher. There are bad teachers out there. I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I don’t know the particulars of your situation. Perhaps, if you’re feeling up to it, you could volunteer to present on a hobby or topic you love, and help guide the class through a related activity? Sometimes that’s the best way to show your dissatisfaction – it tells the teacher, “This is what I wish I saw in your classroom!”

    I’m sorry your kids aren’t ending their school year on a high note. Please rest assured though, teachers (and their unions) are as unhappy about Standardized Assessments and money-wasting curricula as you are.

  • Agatha Gomes

    Good for her! Im excited for her future!

  • Jack Freeman

    This is Polk County, the racist state of Florida, black people get crucified for just existing. If this were a white school in an all white neighborhood the child would have been given an award for figuring it all out. Then thrown a f&%&ng parade for being the brightest kid on Earth. LOL

  • ACF

    Yes yes yes.

  • Roberta

    She will have the best experiment stories to tell in grad school. Best of luck to her!

  • Laura Truxillo

    It’s not expensive, but it IS dangerous. Innocuous items on their own, but they react explosively when mixed, sometimes (like in the case of surprise bottle bombs) with enough force to maim.

    But yeah, this one ain’t on the teacher. IIRC, there was mention that a teacher was…nearby? Or something? Or vaguely aware that an experiment was going on, but not what it was. She should have laid out the experiment before had with a teacher and made sure to have one present in case something went wrong (or the school flipped out). That’s not on the teacher, that’s on her.

  • Guest

    Such Good news that made me cry. Honestly, I often think I am too soft for this cruel world.

  • Jasmin Gelinck

    Seriously good news! Thank God.

  • John Wao

    The people who expelled her should accompany them and carry their luggage wherever they go.

  • Anonymous

    I am still fuckin’ furious that this even happened in the first place, but this is only something I can empathize with, since I have the privilege of having white skin. The absolute best thing that could happen is for those responsible for trying to fuck up her life publicly apologize; since racism is rarely ever acknowledged by the bigots who wield it so well, steeped in their own smug assertion that there is some Level Playing Field (hence the “zero tolerance” bullshit), I highly doubt that will happen (unless they decide to listen to the marginalized, which is yet another privilege bestowed upon them). I think this is fucking awesome and I hope this is something Kiera Wilmot wants and will have fun doing. It would be interesting to see how she feels about this whole experience.

  • Anonymous

    In chemistry class we had a crock pot at every station, for tossing your chemicals in just in case you had an unexpected chemical reaction while working with your stuff. One time my classmate ended up setting something on fire in the crock pot and they didn’t freak out about it.

  • Life Lessons

    I must agree.

  • Eisen

    Yes of course, such things can be dangerous. But kids will do dumb stuff at some point, even smart and nice kids.

    And even a teacher was nearby… this stuff happens. We don’t know if he was distracted, or if he really knew what was going on.

    The real shame after all is, how the girl was treated afterwards.

  • Renee I.

    I am glad to see that even with all the lack of pure common sense surrounding this situation that something good has come out of this. The Space Camp program is really wonderful. We had the fortune to send our son to it many years ago and it really fostered his love of science and curiosity. Best of luck to those girls.

  • Mike Crowder

    Where was the teacher? Right freaking there, you idiot.

    Expensive and dangerous chemicals? Toilet cleaner and tin foil … you idiot.

    Reading is fundamental… try it next time before you rant nonsensically.