We were thrilled to report a mostly happy ending to the story that was high school student Kiera Wilmot being expelled and arrested for attempting a science experiment on school grounds. No formal charges were brought against the student and she and her sister will get a free ride to space camp soon, but to hear Wilmot tell the story in her own words brings the frightening reality of what almost happened back to life.
Wilmot wrote a full account of what happened for the American Civil Liberties Union and as a kid who rarely got in trouble at school, it brought back memories of how bad it actually felt when I did. Only, I don’t think I could ever imagine what it would be like being handcuffed at school for doing a science project.
The piece, titled “An Unexpected Reaction: Why a Science Experiment Gone Bad Doesn’t Make Me a Criminal,” broke down the whole experience, which began by choosing a biology, chemistry, or physics project for class.
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.
What followed wasn’t what Wilmot, or any of us, would have expected. She explained to school officials what had happened, they told her she made a bomb on school property. And then the police came.
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.
So it looks like Wilmot and her family have a pretty good case for a lawsuit. Wilmot explained how traumatic it was for her to then be brought to a juvenile assessment center and that even though her mother seemed disappointed, she’s not sure what she would have done without her there. “I would have dug a hole and sat there for the rest of my life,” she wrote.
Thankfully, the state decided not to formally charge Wilmot but at the time, she was extremely concerned about what a criminal record could do to her future hopes and dreams. “I want to go to college and get a degree in technology design and engineering,” she wrote. “I want a career building robots that can do tasks like surgeries or driving cars.”
Although she’s mostly out of the woods, and getting a sweet trip to space camp thanks to supporters, Wilmot is still having a tough time. She’s concerned about how her twin sister Kayla is handling the whole thing and wishes she could go back to her old school.
Right now I’m at Bill Duncan Opportunity Center, which is for students who were kicked out of school. People are teasing me and calling me a terrorist. And the school is actually quite easy. I’m not getting the challenge that I used to have. I don’t have homework. There is no German class, and there is no orchestra. I probably couldn’t even bring my cello because I was told the students would steal it.
For science, ladies and gentlmen, for science.
Take a few minutes and read Wilmot’s entire essay on the ACLU website.