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Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

In Her Own Words: Kiera Wilmot Talks About The Science Experiment That Almost Ruined Her Future


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.

(via Jezebel)

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  • http://www.teamugli.com/ Jericho McCune

    It makes me happy that this young person is getting the opportunity to use her voice and tell the story from her perspective. I applaud the fact that she acknowledges what she did was wrong, but she also understands that it wasn’t as wrong as many are making it out to be. Her opinion of a proper punishment is much more balanced than what actually happened.

    More importantly, though, I desperately hope that the first day of the new school year sees her walking the halls of a school that can challenge her enough that she’s better equipped to meet her goals. She seems to have a good head on her shoulders, and she deserves every opportunity to use it.

  • Anonymous

    I hope she becomes a lawyer and prevents PC school officials from abusing other children.

  • Gargamel Le Noir

    “I applaud the fact that she acknowledges what she did was wrong”
    I’m sorry did we read the same story? She was told to do a science project, she ran it by her teachers, they greenlighted it, and it went wrong.
    It’s called an accident. Where did she go wrong? Telling she did is called “blaming the victim”.

  • http://www.teamugli.com/ Jericho McCune

    “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.” (emphasis mine)

    She didn’t run it by her teachers. She was going to, but peer pressure convinced her to do it on the playground before she discussed it with anyone.

    Please read her essay: http://www.aclu.org/blog/racial-justice/unexpected-reaction-why-science-experiment-gone-bad-doesnt-make-me-criminal

  • Gargamel Le Noir

    Thanks! I misread and thought it was teachers who urged her to give it a try.
    It’s clearer now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamie.jeans Jamie Jeans

    Correction to that headline:

    It was not the mistake that almost ruined her life, but the overreaction of a bunch of racist shitheads who were most likely looking for any excuse to beat down on a young, black girl.

  • Anonymous

    Regardless, expulsion and trying to charge her in court as an adult over this were insane overreactions to the situation. Attempting to ruin a kid’s future so thoroughly over something this minor is insane no matter how you slice it.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Pretty sure that what you’re describing is prejudiced. Assuming what happened was the result of “racist shitheads”, I mean.

  • Anonymous

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  • Skye

    I’m glad my high school wasn’t run by the same people. I once burnt a piece of paper on school grounds and the dean just looked at me and let me run along once I explained myself…

  • Emily Neenan

    It’s hard _not_ to think of it that way. We know we live in a world where there are lots of racist shitheads. We know black kids are much more likely than white kids to get disproportionate punishments, and get stuck in the “school-to-prison pipeline” in the States. So when a black kid gets a hilarious-if-it-wasn’t-so-scary overreaction of a punishment, it’s hard to imagine racism wasn’t at play.

  • Anonymous

    Space Camp is great and very exciting for her, but what might be more beneficial would be if a private school, with German classes and orchestra and everything, were to step up and provide a scholarship for this young student. A scholarship to a private high school that would challenge her and give her an opportunity to learn more about the sciences she loves would be better for her in the long run because at an “Opportunity Center,” she is already being tracked to non-college prep. This will hurt her when she does get into college, which I firmly believe she will.

    Would my alma mater, Michigan Tech, care to step up and be the first to offer Ms. Wilmot admittance and a scholarship to truly become a great engineer?

  • ACF

    I hope she becomes an engineer because that’s what she wants to be.

  • Kris Talbot

    Maybe both. We need more lawyers with a good grounding in science or technology.

  • Fisty

    ‘Merica

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I agree.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=578553109 Debra D Knealing

    Lawyers are why these things happen. The schools are so terrified that they’ll be sued by helicopter parents, that they turn over minor infractions to the police, even the slightest little things.

  • Anonymous

    Every new detail that comes out about this just makes it seem more grossly unfair.

  • Melissa

    What she did was make a drano bomb. There were several incidents of this same thing going on in Buffalo, NY and Baltimore, MD back in 2010, 2011 and people were arrested and charged for making those bombs. The mistake was listening to her dumbass friends instead of doing research first. Obviously she’s not as intelligent as she thought and awarding her and her sister with a trip to space camp is just rewarding ignorance and criminal behavior. Unreal!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamie.jeans Jamie Jeans

    … wowwww… so much ignorance right there.

    So in other words, it would have been better had she been overly punished for a simple little mistake that didn’t hurt anyone and ruin her future.

    Yeah, sure… riiiight… because she has to be perfect and not human and make simple little mistakes.

    It must be so nice to live in your world where you don’t have to think about history, and context, and have critical thought about how those things interact instead of operating in a vacuum…

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamie.jeans Jamie Jeans

    … wowwww… so much ignorance right there.

    So in other words, it would have been better had she been overly punished for a simple little mistake that didn’t hurt anyone and ruin her future.

    Yeah, sure… riiiight… because she has to be perfect and not human and make simple little mistakes.

    It must be so nice to live in your world where you don’t have to think about history, and context, and have critical thought about how those things interact instead of operating in a vacuum…

  • Barry Kort

    The school officials and the constabulary also got an unexpected reaction from the STEM community.

  • Melissa

    I am thinking about history and context. I mentioned specifically two cities where this happened before. If you like, I can post the names of the four young men that were arrested and charged for doing the same thing. Never said they were charged with a felony. Maybe that’s what she needs is a wake up call. You wanna talk ignorance? She asked around to see what she should do and then did it without researching the possible outcomes. That’s just poor scientific experimentation right there.

  • MamaChitChatChitterling

    This is an inspiring response! Thank you Mr. Kort.

  • Barry Kort

    Anyone with a solid grounding in STEM would never take up a career in the Law.

    The Rule of Law, which was devised some 4000 years ago, is based on an axiomatic assumption that the STEM community thoroughly falsified during the 20th Century.