Updated 8 May 2013: The following information and action links are now all on a separate website for those who are not on Facebook [archived]. If you are, click this link to join the Facebook page and stay updated there. Thank you for acting for justice and on Kiera’s behalf.
On the suggestion of a friend, Kiera — 16 years old and a student at Bartow High School in Polk County, Florida — decided to experiment with a water bottle, aluminum foil, and bathroom cleaner to see what would happen when she mixed them all. She just thought it would smoke. It did that. It also made the top of the 8-ounce water bottle fly off. The vice principal, who was not too far away at the time, heard it when it popped off. He thought it was a firecracker at the time.
Unfortunately, Kiera, who has an excellent school record and good grades, tried her experiment on a Monday morning on school grounds without the knowledge or supervision of staff. She didn’t run off — she didn’t have any reason to. No one was hurt, no building was damaged, and even the water bottle itself survived unscathed.
Unfortunately for Kiera, Bartow High School officials treated Kiera’s innocent act aggressively, in keeping with current U.S. policies that treat even minor cases of tomfoolery with “zero tolerance.” That is, instead treating her like a kid with a natural curiosity for “how stuff works,” they treated Kiera like a terrorist threat. Instead of instructing Kiera on proper chemistry safety with protective gear and gloves, police slapped handcuffs on her. Instead of treating her like a good student, Kiera is being treated like a common criminal.
The incident happened on Monday morning, April 22nd. (Official police incident report). Since then,
Kiera has been expelled from school. Worse, she has been charged as an adult with felony possession and discharge of a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device. UPDATED: According to Larry Hardaway, the lawyer working with the Wilmot family on this case, Kiera was given a 10-day suspension pending decision on expulsion. She was sent to an alternative school for the rest of the school year. The charges first suggested by Assistant State Attorney Tammy Glotfelty under which the police were authorized to arrest Kiera have not been formerly filed. Listen to the interview with him on Soundcloud. And keep those calls and emails rolling in to the contacts listed below so that it never happens!
In a television interview with Tampa’s 10 News, Bartow High School Principal Ronald Pritchard had this to say about Kiera: “She’s a good kid and, you know, she made a bad choice … she was not trying to be malicious or to harm anybody or destroy something at school or anything else.” (Tampa 10 News)
We agree with Principal Pritchard that Kiera is a good kid who did not intend to harm anyone or any thing. We know that this is not about juvenile delinquency, juvenile crime, or even juvenile misbehavior. As we teach our kids to exercise good judgment and to behave with common sense, so too are we expected to be the good examples of that. Where are the common sense, good judgment, and the right stewardship of public funds in using police officers, attorneys, judges, and juvenile detention personnel in the arrest of and charges placed against this bright, young girl? When we charge our public officials with the task of using our tax dollars in protecting us from crime, is it the Kiera Wilmots that we mean for them to punish? In-school detention is one thing. But a criminal charge and the possibility of a criminal record that removes her from her family, her community, her path to higher education, and employment opportunities are something else entirely.
Want to get involved?
The above information and action links are now all on a separate website for those who are not on Facebook [archived]. If you are, click this link to join the Facebook page and stay updated there. Thank you for acting for justice and on Kiera’s behalf.