Education

Student expelled, arrested after setting off explosion at high school

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Robby Soave
Reporter

A Florida student who was expelled from school and charged with two felonies after setting off a small explosion on school grounds could get a reprieve, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.

Sixteen-year-old Bartow High School student Kiera Wilmot claims she was conducting an unsanctioned science experiment before classes began. She mixed several common chemicals in an 8 ounce water bottle, producing smoke and a small but audible explosion, according to The Ledger.

The arrest report states that the materials that caused the explosion included toilet bowl cleaner and pieces of aluminum foil. Wilmot’s science teacher is quoted as saying that this was not part of any class work.

The incident happened on school property, outside the building. No one was injured, and no property was damaged.

Principal Ron Pritchard declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but described Wilmot as a “good young lady,” in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“She made a bad choice,” said Pritchard in a statement to a local news channel. “Honestly, I don’t think she meant to ever hurt anyone.”

But according to the Polk County Public Schools, Wilmot’s actions violate Section 5.05 of the Code of Conduct, which stipulates that “A student who is in possession of a bomb, explosive device, or substance or materials intended for use in a bomb or explosive device or substance while at school or a school sponsored activity… is guilty of a serious breach of conduct.”

Under the school district’s zero tolerance policy, the punishment for such actions is expulsion. Wilmot would have to complete her high school degree in a special program for expelled teenagers.

She was also charged with two felonies: possessing a destructive device and using a weapon on school grounds. She was taken to a juvenile assessment center but will be tried as an adult, according to The Miami New Times.

Wilmot had never been in trouble before and received good grades.

The school board did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but released a statement standing by the decision to expel and arrest Wilmot:

“Anytime a student makes a bad choice it is disappointing to us. Unfortunately, the incident that occurred at Bartow High School yesterday was a serious breach of conduct. In order to maintain a safe and orderly learning environment, we simply must uphold our code of conduct rules. We urge our parents to join us in conveying the message that there are consequences to actions. We will not compromise the safety and security of our students and staff.”

But multiple media commentators have expressed the opinion that the school district exercised worse judgment than the student, urging authorities to revisit the matter.

Police and administrators could decide to go with lighter penalties after a disciplinary hearing.

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