If you haven't heard of Kiera Wilmot you probably soon will. Here's the story.
Wilmot is a sixteen year old high school student in Polk County, FL. A good student with no disciplinary problems, she has the kind of scientific curiosity that MIT fights over. She also made a bad choice. She decided to conduct an impromptu science experiment on school grounds. By mixing toilet cleaner and aluminum foil in water bottle, she created a small explosion. The trick can be found on YouTube and has been the topic of reality shows along with what happens when you drop Mentos in Diet Coke.
It's a fun, harmless gag.
Twenty years ago it would have wound up on Nickelodeon or an afterschool special, ending with the kind of disciplinary action that teaches its audience a common life lesson. That's not the world we live in.
Wilmot was led out of school in handcuffs and now faces two felony charges, likely as an adult. What may be worse, Bartow High School's principal slapped her with an expulsion, forcing her to complete her high school career in an expulsion program, completely shattering any hope that Wilmot might be accepted to the kind of colleges that typically grant scholarships for this kind of scientific curiosity.
On paper, this might sound like part of our nation's growing paranoia. In the wake of the Boston bombings, it might even be an understandable, if misguided, overreaction. But that isn't the whole story. Kiera Wilmot is black, and the Polk County Sheriff's Department has done a fine job proving that Florida is still very much a part of the Old South.
Of course it's way too easy to make that generalization solely based on race. With schools banning dodgeball and peanut butter, it's not hard to imagine Jessie Spano being thrown in jail for anything remotely resembling a bomb.
However, any consideration was thrown out when, two days later, the same Assistant District Attorney decided not to prosecute a thirteen year old who accidentally shot and killed his brother. That was likely the right decision. After all, Taylor Richardson will forever have to live with this fact.
But why was the "boys will be boys" approach taken for an accident that resulted in a tragic death, and not employed after a harmless experiment blew up a water bottle? Why did Glotfelty cite the prestigious Roosevelt Academy in her decision not to prosecute Richardson, but not Wilmot's academic or disciplinary record at Bartow High School? One guess what color Richardson is.
Deciding to charge Wilmot as an adult is a reflection of a visceral double standard that lingers in our nation. Bartow High School's policy requires expulsion, but Polk County law doesn't require felony charges, and certainly doesn't require trying a sixteen year old child as an adult. These choices are entirely at the discretion of ADA Tammy Glotfelty and reflection of a racially hostile community itching to throw the book at any minority who steps out of line.
Join the Facebook page, sign the petition, and write the Polk County Sheriff's Department:
255 N Broadway Ave. Bartow, FL 33830