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Teen faces felony charges in exploding water bottle incident; was it a science project gone bad?

May 2, 2013, 11:00 am CDT

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Yet another life derailed by mindless application of zero-tolerance rules by school officials. The only thing this underscores for teens is that their contempt for their teachers is well justified.

By Tyrone on 2013 05 02, 11:53 am CDT

And next elementary school students will no longer be allowed to make model volcanos as part of their science fair experiments. After all, when done properly it also discharges smoke and is intended to model an explosive chemical reaction.

For that matter, when I took Chemistry in High School, one of the experiments we did was to combine small amounts of sodium and water which produces a rather impressive reaction. Is that experiment now banned under this idiotic zero tolerance policy?

By OKBankLaw on 2013 05 02, 1:07 pm CDT

Well guess who's going home tonight and mixing toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil?

In related ridiculous school news, http://townhall.com/columnists/toddstarnes/2013/05/01/town-rallies-around-eagle-scout-facing-expulsion-over-gun-charge-n1584367.

By KS Attorney on 2013 05 02, 1:26 pm CDT

When the enforcement of Florida’s law goes bad—the people of Florida pay.

Under Florida Statute 790.001(4)(a), a “Destructive device” does not include: a device which is not designed, redesigned, used, or intended for use as a weapon. Clearly, this student’s science experiment was not “designed, redesigned, used, or intended to be used as a weapon.” The principle’s own statement shows that the girl “did not ‘intent’ for her science project to explode.” So why is this minor being prosecuted for a science project gone bad? This is clearly not the way to encourage our young science majors.

Under Florida law the “possession or discharge of a destructive device on school property occurs when the “person who exhibits a…destructive device…except as authorized in support of school-sanctioned activities...” The real question is, was this a school sanction science project? The principal’s statement seems to resolve this question by calling it “a science project.”

Even if the this was not a “school sanctioned project” the statute clearly expresses a required intent in the very definition of a “destructive devise,” as designed to be discharged. The Florida court will likely interpret the statute most favorably to the accused and conclude that the "discharge of a destructive device…the device must explode [and] function as it was intended."

This student’s science experiment was merely that, an experiment. The plain meaning of an experiment is that of understanding cause and effect, without any intentional outcome.
Although, there are many that would love to ruin someone’s life merely because of fear. There must be a limit to the absurdity of that fear. If we begin to arrest and charge all creative minds because their science project has gone bad, we will find ourselves without any great scientist to further societal growth.

The real question is why this student was not being supervised during this science project. Perhaps the principle and teacher should be charged with failing to supervise the student during a science project instead of placing the blame onto a minor who was under (or should have been under) the supervision of the state (school).

It is clear in the text of the statute that the Florida legislature never intended to prosecute a child when, under the supervision of the state (school) for a science project that goes bad. This is what happens when we fail to encourage creative thinking and teach critical reasoning to our children, they simply grow up to enforce absurdity and allow fear to control them instead of knowledge.
___
ABA Journal, Teen faces felony charges in exploding water bottle incident; was it a science project gone bad (2013) available at, http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/teen_faces_felony_charges_in_water_bottle_incident_was_it_a_science_project/

Florida Statute 790.115(1)
Wallace v. State, 860 So. 2d 494, 498 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 4th Dist. 2003)

By Mary Cosmo on 2013 05 02, 1:39 pm CDT

Overkill. I had one of these once, and I learned how easy it is to make one of these devices. Folklore called them the "poor man's mailbox bomb." Problem with my guys was school property was damaged, they set these things off in school buses.

By JimB on 2013 05 02, 2:18 pm CDT

Whatever happened to the concept of a "teachable moment?" If it's clear to everyone involved - including the superintendent - that this was a kid who made a dumb decision, that's where she gets sat down for a discussion about when it is appropriate to conduct these kinds of experiments, and maybe a day of suspension for stupidity. Good grief.

Having worked for a summer program where we lived in dorms with about 90 high school students for six weeks at a time, I can tell you they do dumb things. That doesn't mean you call the cops every time they do something stupid.

By RecentGrad on 2013 05 02, 2:27 pm CDT

Comment removed by moderator.

By Davante Madden on 2013 05 02, 3:27 pm CDT

This girl may have been smart and the perfect teen, but she did what you are not supposed to do she was in violation of the 0 tolerance and so now that she is receiving 0 tolerance your upset.

By Davante Madden on 2013 05 02, 3:31 pm CDT

IT WASN'T A SCIENCE FAIR PROJECT SHE LIED GET OVER IT

By Davante Madden on 2013 05 02, 3:40 pm CDT

@7 & 8

Regardless of whether she is capable of lying, zero tolerance policies are generally stupid in my opinion. They don't give schools or administrators leeway to deal with issues that are less than serious. The activity the student engaged in was incredibly stupid, but no one was injured and no property was damaged. In point of fact, if the student had done this same experiment in her backyard instead of on school property, she probably wouldn't have been in violation of the law.

By OKBankLaw on 2013 05 02, 3:44 pm CDT

So the kid makes one mistake (that causes no damage) in an independent pursuit of scientific curiosity and she is expelled from school and charged with a felony? It was stupid, but a crime? And a felony at that?! Indeed, their should be consequences, but they should not be completely disproportionate to the act. I 100% agree with RecentGrad's take on it.

And now her name will always be linked with the crime of discharging a weapon on school property. It doesn't matter if she is never convicted. People will google her in the future, including employers, and this is what they will see and make a decision accordingly.

By Atty on 2013 05 02, 3:50 pm CDT

8 & 9: So you really think this kids future should be destroyed over this? Really? Just about every Scientist and Engineer I know did a heck of a lot worse things that this when they were kids - it's part of being intelligent & inquisitive. I may be dating myself, but if I had a nickel for every time someone in my High School set of fire crackers in school and the like, I'd be rich. Today, if a kid set off a fire cracker they'd put the school in lock down, call in the SWAT team, run sniffer dogs all over, and destroy the kid's life when they caught them.

Scientists say the average intelligence of the human race is dropping. I have no doubt that's true, at least in American schools.

By Tyrone on 2013 05 02, 3:55 pm CDT

call me conspiracy theorist .. that's fine.

But police state is getting closer and close by the minute. Good luck to you my neighbors, I've got extra land if you ever need to flea.

By Mike on 2013 05 02, 7:56 pm CDT

So a majority of you are ok with the fact that she made a pressure bomb at a school? Full of other children? Within weeks of the Boston Bombing? Then lied about it when questioned?

You think a slap on the wrist should suffice?

By NG on 2013 05 02, 8:25 pm CDT

Let's see now . . . drain cleaner, aluminum foil, and a concealed, loaded 9 mm Glock.
Which of these do Florida officials worry about, again?

By Ham Solo on 2013 05 02, 11:37 pm CDT

NG, get a grip. People are not "okay" with it. They agree it was a stupid thing to do. It's not objection to punishment, it's objection to a completely disproportionate punishment, particularly the felony charge.

This is not a terrorist. This is not one of the Boston marathon bombers.

By Atty on 2013 05 02, 11:39 pm CDT

These "devices" have less destructive capacity than a firecracker. On the other hand, they spew out boiling hot lye when they go off -- if nobody's yet been blinded by one of these things, it's a testament to how little "bang" you get out of them.

So, not a "bomb", nor a "science experiment" -- I believe the word we're looking for here is "prank". School officials are exhibiting profound ignorance (and/or animus) here.

By Ham Solo on 2013 05 03, 12:29 am CDT

I scanned this article as I thought for sure it was about a nearly identical "prank" at one of our (Spokane, WA) public high schools, Ferris High School. The story nearly tracks identically the "explosion" of a pop bottle bomb in a hallway or common area; then was exacerbated by a second such "bomb" going off shortly thereafter. The second explosion causedd the principal, with input from the Spokane Police Department, to close the school due to the uncertainty of how many other "bombs" (pop bottle chemical explosion with little destructive capacity) might be in the schools buildings and if they might esculate in explosive capacity and a correlated increase in destructive capacity and likelihood of serious bodily harm or even death if students, staff and visitors remained in a circumstance wherein two explosions had already occurred on the premises. Needless to say, the school district (Spokane Public School District 81), the administration and the police did NOT see he humor in this prank. Unfortunately, I wound up in the Seattle VAMC Hospital where I had a complete right knee replacement surgery, so I was unable to folllow the story for several days/weeks. I shall see if I can research the status of this "criminal case" and report further.

By Larry E. Krueger on 2013 05 03, 3:55 am CDT

The case at hand involved setting the bottle outdoors. On school grounds, so not the best choice, but the intent was to observe the explosion -- undoubtedly for entertainment, as is the case 99% of the time. ("Science experiment" is a weak excuse.)

The Ferris High incident was not a comparable situation at all. The culprit set his bottles off indoors, during class hours (final exams week ... hmmm), with the intent to disrupt the school. The janitor suffered chemical burns trying to clean up the mess. The kid was caught on security cameras - he's not exactly a genius - and rightly faces criminal charges.

By Ham Solo on 2013 05 03, 4:46 am CDT

One has to take into consideration the totality of the situation here.
While I agree that what she did was monumentally stupid, and that she should indeed be punished for what she did, charging her with a felony and expelling her is by far too harsh a sentence.

Zero tolerance policies are running amok in our country, and way too many administrators are hiding behind this in place of making a decision, even when said decision may prove unpopular.
As an example, one of my colleages has a case, where she is representing a victim of bullying. The victim was being beaten by a well known bullyl when the princpal intervened. Under her interpretation of "Zero Tolerance" she suspended both kids, since both were "participating" in the bullying act, completely ignoring the fact that one of them was on the receiving end and did not even lift a finger to protect himself. Now, unless succesful in court, he will have this suspension stapled to any college or university he applies to in the future.

By Guilin Expat on 2013 05 03, 9:53 am CDT

Most scientists would be high school felons if this policy were widespread. Lesson: do your experiments at home, not school, in a dark corner of the basement or behind the woodshed. Schools are not a safe place for students to innovate.

By William Able on 2013 05 03, 10:19 am CDT

As a former "mad scientist" teen, who also administered notable damage to a would-be bully in H.S., I was fortunate in having an intelligent school principal with a lot of common sense. I doubt that any of my misadventures generated even a single piece of paper, let alone a ream of court and police records; comparing that to the situation described here is simply infuriating. With (WV high school senior) Katelyn Campbell as a role model, and enough brains and determination, maybe she'll be able to rise above the idiots around her; it's a shame that it's being made more difficult than it already is.

By Ham Solo on 2013 05 03, 11:01 am CDT

Kiera is a black girl, interested in science! What a loss to the society that Florida would seek to destroy this kid by treating her as a felon and rather than support her to defy the statistics, they turn her into a statistic. The school officials are self-serving dullards who themselves are in need of education and training because they have no understanding or commitment to education.

No child in this society should be treated so harshly. No child interested in science should be so thoroughly destroyed. She should not have tried this experiment in the school. She should have been reprimanded and given a corrective punishment assignment like writing a report on the chemical interaction that caused the explosion or the physics of how explosions damage human bodies and property.

By Just Saying on 2013 05 03, 11:17 am CDT

Yeah we almost burnt our house down when we were kids, playing kitchen outdoors. Thankful we werent charged with attempted arson. This is a very sad result. Suspension maybe, but expulsion and felony charge..."like puhlease" (see earlier article re talking like a babysister).

Where is B. McCleod?

By Karma on 2013 05 03, 2:31 pm CDT

This is what I don't get; why was she suspended and charged with felonies, when "The school principal, Ron Pritchard, said he thinks Wilmot was just curious about what would happen when the chemicals were mixed and was shocked by the result. “She is a good kid,” he said."

A felony record. If convicted, no voting, no guns, no jobs in certain areas, no security clearance: no future. Why can't the people in charge understand consequences?

Seems like every Friday, here, we read about these things. It's the end of the world as we know it.

By hadley V. Baxendale on 2013 05 03, 2:55 pm CDT

Expelling this kid makes sense if you understand public schools as penal, rather than educational, institutions.

My clever, but troublesome, younger brothers had trouble with public schools. Every decision made NO sense if the schools were operating as educational institutions. The same decisions made perfect sense if the schools were operating as prisons.

Let's hope at least some of the scientists who did destructive, but investigative, things as kids reach out to this kid.

By BGR on 2013 05 03, 3:04 pm CDT

As a child, I made my first batch of black gunpowder when I was 13. I did not get the proportions correct as it was a fizzle, not a bang. The father of a childhood friend took us aside as he was a chemist and said that he did not want to stifle our creativity but wanted instead to give us lessons in safe preparation.

That was due to his own precocious experimentation at the same age with making gunpowder that eventually lead to him becoming a Harvard educated PHD Chemist with several patents . This man became a lifetime mentor and friend. When he developed Alzheimer’s late in life, I was so sad to see such brilliant mind wasting away. God rest his soul! It is too bad that there are not more people like him in this sick world.

I became an engineer in part due to his tutelage and my proclivities.

The problem with people like these so called educators is that their fears and doubts and their overly emotional upbringing contaminate their thinking and thus their teaching process. Their F.U.D. is exacerbated wildly by the media and the overly protective busybodies that land in the Social Services & Education fields.

They "think" they are doing the "right" thing by calling the police. What they did was to literally kill this young woman’s chances at life when no harm was caused or intended.

This is why all children that exhibit any kind of independent thought, or intelligence need to be removed from the general education system as early as possible so they do not become ruined by the shortcomings of the "Indoctrination System". Let them become Scientists, Engineers and Leaders of Men and let the rest become the sheep their "teachers" train them to be.

What this girl did was no worse than a 7 grade science experiment and now she is a "criminal" for life.

I say that any prosecutor that proceeds with this case needs to be removed from office and banned from the legal profession. Frankly the assistant principal needs to be dismissed immediately for his incredible stupidity and inability to think rationally.

I have "zero tolerance" for morons like them and their supporters. Death to Ignorance and Stupidity!

By Dan Paul on 2013 05 03, 3:24 pm CDT

Things like this wouldn't happen if the kid had to undergo a background check before buying water.

While we're at it, we also need background checks for people buying pressure cookers, not to mention a pressure cooker registry.

By blindref1 on 2013 05 03, 3:44 pm CDT

Kiera should know better than to do science while black. This IS Florida.

By heywood on 2013 05 03, 3:56 pm CDT

HLS needs to waterboard her until she admits she is not a human but actually a carrot.

By You call this coffee!? on 2013 05 03, 4:34 pm CDT

This was not a weapon, a Glock 17 9mm firearm is a weapon. This was a kid being a kid, it's a school, it's happened before and it'll happen again. 0 tolerance policies are, in my opinion, not effective, a suspension would have been what they would have done in the good 'ol days, this is ridiculous.

I have just one more question, where is B. McLeod??

By Joshua Neuman on 2013 05 03, 4:39 pm CDT

B. McLeod would have something witty to say

By Joshua Neuman on 2013 05 03, 4:41 pm CDT

I attended high school in Europe where in their equivalent of grades 9 through 12 the study is much more narrowly focused. In 11th and 12th grades we studied only four subjects. So we knew a lot of chemistry and making explosives is very easy chemistry, much easier than the level we were studying. Consequently, many bombs were made and tested. Fortunately nobody was killed. Amazingly no one was ever disciplined either. It was considered youthful experimentation, almost healthy. If the school had clamped down on it, it would have been by telling us to stop, not having the police charge us with a crime. Teachers in those days were expected to use judgement and discretion and prevent young lives being ruined by small lapses of judgement or out of character bad acts. Ironically, it is probably we lawyers who have created this situation of zero-tolerance and taking discretion away from teachers and school officials; fear of our lawsuits has forced school districts to create rigid systems.

By Unemployed Lawyer on 2013 05 03, 5:11 pm CDT

People who take a "do the crime, do the time" approach to criminal justice, without any analysis of the severity of either, scare me.

By ML1234 on 2013 05 03, 5:14 pm CDT

At second grade science day in our school district, kids make similar IED's by the dozen. vinegar and baking soda, produced enough C02 to blow the seam of a baggy open.
When I was in college, the chemistry professor started every class with an explosion of some sort.
Were we all criminals?
Another real failure here, besides the knee-jerk zero tolerance issue, is that Wilmot was forced to incriminate herself with statements to the principal and the cop. Sure she was Mirandized, but clearly her education was deficient in leading her to believe that making any sort of explanation would help. Without her self-incrimination, there is no case.
The lesson for kids: Never, ever say anything to the principal or the police.
I wish I could represent Kiera Wilmot.
The lesson for parents: We need to wrestle back control over our schools.
A question for chemists: What is the reaction here, and what is the resulting compound. If it is just release of oxygen and 6HCl(aq) + 2Al(s) –> 2AlCl3(aq) + 3H2(g). That is aluminum chloride and hydrogen. The aluminum chloride can irritate your skin. In water bottle quantities, hydrogen is harmless.
If you do the same experiment without the bottle cap, it won't explode. Is that a crime?
In some states, mere possession of the components is a crime. So we should all quickly discard our water bottles, aluminum foil and toilet bowl cleaner.

By DC on 2013 05 03, 5:36 pm CDT

@35

While I get what you're saying, that the components of a chemical reaction aren't terribly harmful, and to be clear I totally disagree with what has happened in this case, Sodium and Water is just

2H2O + 2Na -> 2NaOH + H2

but there's enough Hydrogen and energy released to make a rather impressive and quite hot flame with very little water and Sodium.

By OKBankLaw on 2013 05 03, 6:01 pm CDT

When I was in middle school in the early 70's, I owned and read Abbie Hoffman's "Steal This Book." It advocated overthrow of the US government, contained instructions for building bombs, making napalm, incited riots and sabotaging utilities.

I often had that book in my school locker. I also always carried a boy scout pocket knife to school.

Can you imagine how the schools would eract today if they came across one? Since they have suspended the Bill of Rights along with common sense, I bet merely possessing the literature would be grounds for expulsion, and probably jail.

If you want to understand how things got this way, read Phillip Howard's book "The Death of Common Sense."

By HadleyV.Baxendale on 2013 05 03, 6:02 pm CDT

@36 Funny when you toss a chunk in the river between campuses, not so funny when you flush a chunk down a toilet on the tenth floor of the dormitory. Context should be taken into account, but the WIlmot's school officials seem to incapable of thinking that hard (perhaps precluded by statute from using their brains, perhaps allowed by statute to use their brains but incapable of doing so).
You are certainly correct. That the end product of a destructive explosion could be harmless does not negate the destructive effect of explosion. I wonder, though, that when the destructive effect is limited to a water bottle bursting, and only innocuous end products are created, whether any destructive device has been created?
Per FSS 790.161, throwing a baseball is a third degree felony. If you throw it with intent to break a window, its a second degree felony. If you break a window, its a first degree felony. Baseballs should be banned from the school yard.
However, per FSS 790.01, the "explosive device" is quaified by the definition of explosive :(5) “Explosive” means any chemical compound or mixture that has the property of yielding readily to combustion or oxidation upon application of heat, flame, or shock, including but not limited to dynamite, nitroglycerin, trinitrotoluene, or ammonium nitrate when combined with other ingredients to form an explosive mixture, blasting caps, and detonators.
So, the WORKS bomb is not a destructive device per FSS.
The WORKS bomb might be a weapon per FSS 790.001 (“Weapon” means any dirk, knife, metallic knuckles, slungshot, billie, tear gas gun, chemical weapon or device, or other deadly weapon except a firearm or a common pocketknife, plastic knife, or blunt-bladed table knife.) Note that a firearm is not a weapon, per Florida statutes. Florida statutes do not appear to define a chemical weapon, or a chemical device. Interpreted broadly, the battery in you phone is a chemical device.
But FS 790.115(1) also requires that the weapon be exhibited " in a rude, careless, angry, or threatening manner." So long as Wilmot was polite, or alone as reported, she can't be found guilty.

By DC on 2013 05 03, 6:33 pm CDT

Just so we get the chemistry right, it's

6NaOH (lye) + 2Al (aluminum foil) --> 3H2 (gas) + 2Na3AlO3 (sodium aluminate)

The hydrogen gas is what distends and eventually ruptures the bottle.
Heat is generated as well, making the splattered lye that much more hazardous.

Potential pyromaniacs should be advised that they can get exactly the same result, more safely, by sealing dry ice into a soda bottle.

By Ham Solo on 2013 05 03, 7:17 pm CDT

@38: Interesting that the definition of "weapon" excludes firearms. (Hey, it's Florida.)

By Ham Solo on 2013 05 03, 7:24 pm CDT

A more fun way to use the chemistry of comment 39 (lye + aluminum foil) is to do the reaction in a big glass jug and fill a dry cleaners bag with the generated hydrogen. Then you can ignite it and have your own mini-Hindenburg explosion. Don't get too close, but there's no flying debris.

By DKB on 2013 05 03, 8:44 pm CDT

so they can regulate those other things without, practically speaking, 2nd amendment baiting (although dirks and slingshots are "arms"). Typically firearms are regulated elsewhere, seperately.

Which is why you have to read the "concealed carry" laws carefully; some may authorize only a concealed handgun, and thus not a rifle or knife. Or it may apply to "firearms." Or "weapons".

By HVB on 2013 05 03, 8:50 pm CDT

Her punishment is too severe.

But if she hadn't lied and claimed it was a "science experiment," she might have got off lighter. After all, countless YouTube-documented precedents surely involved little or no such penalties. But when her teacher called it a lie, she looked a lot more evil than other kids did.
And if she hadn't been dopey enough to set off explosions on school property, but did it in her back yard instead, she probably would have got off completely ... depending on what her parents might have done to her.

Ironic that in Florida the authorities punish unsafe hijinks by crippling your education.
Compared to that, even parents who paddle you, or ground you for a year, will hurt you a lot less.

By Avon on 2013 05 03, 11:30 pm CDT

@43 How do we know she lied? All we have is the principal's hearsay report about what she said when encouraged or compelled to incriminate herself (I wonder if he demanded a statement or explanation, which she felt compelled to provide, which is typical in school discipline or if she just volunteered the statement).

By DC on 2013 05 04, 12:25 am CDT

Did she say it was a science experiment *for her science class*? Hard to prove it's a lie otherwise -- most of my chemistry 'experiments' at that age were very extra-currricular.

By Ham Solo on 2013 05 04, 12:47 am CDT

Zero tolerance equates to zero brain use. No wonder the mindless academic bureaucrats love the concept. Just imagine if she had been also using a Pop-Tart chewed into the semblance of a bomb. Summary execution would probably be justified.

By Faulhaber on 2013 05 04, 1:00 am CDT

Who would have thought to use Drano to unclog the school-to-prison pipeline?

By Tom Youngjohn on 2013 05 04, 1:38 am CDT

OMG! Based on this story, me and my friends could have been thrown in prison for the things we concocted in the 60s. Remember the small metal canisters with screw-on caps for storing 35mm film? Fill them 2/3s with Drano crystals, add water, screw on the cap, shake, and toss. STUPID!!! Then there was the finely ground charcoal brickettes, saltpeter, and sulfur---s**t flying everywhere! Yee-ha!

By Jedediah Smytheson on 2013 05 04, 1:59 am CDT

44 D.C. and 45 Ham -
You can read the text of the police report as well as I can. She lied.

Why would the police have gone and asked her science teacher - and how could they have - if the kid hadn't told the assistant principal that the experiment was for the science fair? Only after the science teacher said no such thing was happening, did she change her story to blame "a friend" who disappeared at the crucial moment. No personal science experiment should (or would) be conducted in the School's parking lot. All those videos out there on YouTube, using the same method, make it just too unlikely that she was anything but a copycat.

By Avon on 2013 05 04, 2:35 am CDT

@49 Avon.

Are you implying that lying to a school principle about a trivial science hack be a felony?

By William Able on 2013 05 04, 2:41 am CDT

No, William, not at all.

A felony is anything punishable by a year or more in state prison, and her punishment was less.
Meanwhile, I said (@43) "Her punishment is too severe." And that was just the school discipline!

As to the criminal charges, her offense wasn't lying. (Although I'm sure the lying provoked a stricter police reaction than if she had fessed up and apologized to the cop for her stunt.)
The charged offense was causing the explosion that the police responded on in the first place.

I do think it's appropriate that "discharging a weapon on school property and discharging a destructive device" be felonies.
But so what, if she didn't commit those felonies? I sure wouldn't want to be the lawyer trying to prove that her loaded water bottle was a "weapon," or that her device was "destructive" of anything. (I hate getting laughed at by juries, and a defense lawyer would see these charges as ripe for ridicule.)

Even though it's Florida, I'm pretty sure the felony charges will just be thrown out, and they may not even bother prosecuting on misdemeanor charges. Who knows at this point? In Boston, Tsarnaev was originally held merely on a visa violation. Initial charges are just tools of convenience, and what actually proceeds is often very different.

By Avon on 2013 05 04, 3:12 am CDT

Some background. A major reason for felony charges regarding even trivial offenses in Florida is financial. Counties have to pay jail costs for misdemeanors. The State pays prison costs for felonies. So the first impulse of some counties is to charge as many cases as possible as felonies to save money.

@Avon: “Her punishment is too severe.” My apologies. I did read that, but I hadn't noted that you were the author.

By William Able on 2013 05 04, 3:24 am CDT

Kiera did NOT lie!!!

It was a test run for an experiment she wanted to do later in class, with permission. She never said the test itself was authorized, she just explained she was quickly testing before class began her intended experiment.

So please STOP LYING about Kiera, it is sickening. She is already in major trouble.

And no she did not endanger anyone, it made a loud boom but the little plastic bottle was found by the principal, had it been intended to explode it would have been ripped to little pieces as seen on YouTube videos.

She was wrong to attempt this unsupervised but to compare her to terrorists is just insane! Do you people hate your lives so much you want a kid's life destroyed?

By Didacticus on 2013 05 04, 5:12 am CDT

At least she didn't keep her scientific ambitions bottled up.

By NOW JERRY BROWN on 2013 05 04, 3:56 pm CDT

@49 Avon: Try reading it again. The police report first recounts what the principal said she said, and the recounts what she said to the cop. First, They are not inconsistent. Second, we only "know" what the science teacher said because, again, we get it hearsay from the principal. NOthing in the report indicates that the cop "gone and asked here science teacher." But still, the factoid that the experiment was not part of any class work is not inconsistent with the purported assertion that the experiment was related to a science fair, which in my experience (which is likely comparable to yours) is not part of class work. Wilmot did not change her story after the science teacher disclaimed involvement. And she did not blame a friend: she purportedly stated that she made the "bomb" and that the friend assisted. So your assertion that I can read the text of the police report as well as you can is a bit dubious. You are seeing "facts" that just are not in the report.
There is a huge disconnect between this post and the post about Jared Marcum and his NRA t-shirt. In this post, many seem to be assuming that the school administration and cops are unimpeachable, honest and level headed, and the student is a lier. In the Jaren Marcum post, the assumption is that the administration and cops are overbearing, dishonest bumbling fools and Jared is unimpeachably honest and heroic. Why the disconnect?

By DC on 2013 05 04, 4:18 pm CDT

There are times as the Beadle in Oliver Twist observed when "The law is an ass". This appears to be one of them.

By George Sly on 2013 05 05, 4:05 pm CDT

George Sly @ 56, I would only agree if she didn't have a history of being a trouble maker, and her grades showed that she cared.

By Tom Youngjohn on 2013 05 05, 4:48 pm CDT

As someone commented earlier, this could've been a teachable moment. Unfortunately it appears as if the school has instead elected not to teach this young lady anything ever again.

By OKBankLaw on 2013 05 06, 1:08 pm CDT

DC 55,
It seems like you're saying the principal lied about the science teacher's denial. Or, they do science fairs for no grade in that school (I never heard of such a thing). I don't buy it. How do you even know that any "science fair" actually exists in that school? The principal probably wouldn't have any need to ask that question if it did; school administrations know it if there's a science fair. She was plumb out of stories to change to.

Didacticus 53,
I don't know what "didacticus" means, but does it reflect that your "facts" are not in the story or the police report? Such as, "quickly" "before class", or that she wanted to do the experiment "in class"? (Accusing her of that might really be a "lie" that could "destroy" her life.)

I'll repeat (from 43) - "Her punishment is too severe." And that's just the school's punishment. I still think the criminal charges are likely to go away - and I hope they do.

By Avon on 2013 05 06, 9:37 pm CDT

@59 Avon: I am not saying the principal lied. I am saying that, even if the principal's hearsay report is correct, it was not inconsistent with the hearsay statements reported by the cop. The report does not reflect a "change" of "her" story.
I do agree with you: Her expulsion was too severe, and criminal prosecution is absurd. Kids should be free to blow stuff up. Within reason. After school. As long as they are not trying to hurt anyone. We used to send trash cans into orbit with cherry bombs when I was a kid. I would just be getting out of prison if Mr. Durham had caught us.
By the way, other outlets are reporting that the bottle top flew off and some smoke came out of the bottle. That is no explosion. Run through the FSS, and it may appear that there is no violation of those statutes.Also, WORKS bombs require no heat, flame, or shock, so they don't fall within the statute. Looks like someone is just gunning for Keira, regardless of the law.

By DC on 2013 05 06, 11:02 pm CDT

@60

WORKS bombs do require heat and flame, but the heat and flame are generated as a part of the chemical reaction. I'm not saying the young lady should be charged with a crime, but the ignition of the Hydrogen gas produces the "explosion".

By OKBankLaw on 2013 05 07, 1:12 pm CDT

@61 OKBankLaw: Exactly, the heat and flame are generated as part of the reaction. That does not satisfy the definition of "explosive" per the Florida statutes. Florida's definition of explosive: "(5) “Explosive” means any chemical compound or mixture that has the property of yielding readily to combustion or oxidation upon application of heat, flame, or shock, including but not limited to dynamite, nitroglycerin, trinitrotoluene, or ammonium nitrate when combined with other ingredients to form an explosive mixture, blasting caps, and detonators." There is no "application of heat, flame or shock" in the operation of a WORKS bomb, and application of heat, flame or shock does not even enhance the reaction.
The autoignition temperature of hydrogen in air is 932˚F. So, no, the hydrogen gas does not ignite, and this is not what causes the explosion. The explosion is caused merely by the production of the gas which expands until the bottle bursts. If you have ever seen a hydrogen explosion, you would recognize that the works bomb does not lead to a hydrogen explosion. Also, olyethylene terephthalate melts at 500˚F. Polyethylene melts at 266˚F. So, long before the temperature is sufficient to ignite the hydrogen, the bottle would melt and the pressure would released and there would be no explosion. Clearly, the WORKS bomb is not sufficiently exothermic to ignite the hydrogen.
The statute defines "explosive" in relation to the chemical process which occurs. If the chemical process set forth in the statute does not occur, there is not violation, no matter how big the explosion.
The school could have had a policy against WORKS bombs, because they are not covered by the statute, but apparently they did not. So, they are stuck working within the confines the the FSS.
I have to stay, if you are going to arrest people for chemistry, you have to know your chemistry.

By DC on 2013 05 08, 3:31 pm CDT

@62

It's been awhile since my last chemistry class, like I said, but if the chemical reaction for sodium impacting water is sufficient to reach 932 degrees F, than it isn't unreasonable to assume the possibility that the heat from the chemical reaction of Aluminum and Lye could also be sufficient to ignite the hydrogen.

Also, neat chemistry lesson regarding ignition and melting temperatures. A camp fire burns (on average) about 900 degrees F, as you've mentioned Polyethylene melts at 266 degrees F, Water boils at 212 degrees F. It is possible to boil water in a plastic bottle over a 900 degree fire (Even assuming it isn't in the heart of the fire, so the temperature may "only" be 300-400 degrees F).

If I was a creative prosecutor though (and again, I hope she doesn't get prosecuted for this), I would say the "shock" occured when the chemicals were poured on to the Aluminum foil.

By OKBankLaw on 2013 05 08, 4:23 pm CDT

Creative prosecutors: You point out a sad state of affairs: The prosecutor and the state are entitled to exercise all sorts of creativity, so long as it leads to more punishment for more mistakes, but no one is entitle to exercise any common sense if it might lead to less punishment.
Re the assumption that AL and NaOH/KOH would get hot enough to ignite oxygen, it is immaterial. Wilmot mixed HCL with AL, and did not use lye. Though it is exothermic, it is clearly not hot enough to melt plastic bottles, hence the many youtube videos. If it did get hot enough to melt the bottle, all the gas would escape when the bottle melts, and there would be no explosion. The explosion depends on the integrity of the bottle.
I will mix some HCL with aluminum and measure the temperature of the mixture. I'll report the results when I get out of Guantanamo.

By DC on 2013 05 08, 6:26 pm CDT

This exchange has given me some hope. I hope a team of public defenders take this to trial and win. Were I rich, and a lawyer in that state, if she lost at trial, I'd take the appeal. Prosecutors should dismiss this. Or plead down to disturbing the peace. Then no juvenile record counts for anything, right?

"She's a good kid."

By Tom Youngjohn on 2013 05 08, 6:33 pm CDT

Thank God for DC @64! Laughing out loud is just what we need most, once in a while.

By Avon on 2013 05 08, 10:02 pm CDT

I am in support of the action taken, and those who are not are teaching people that they can escape the consequences of their actions, which seems rather commonplace in today's society... a world full of people that fail to understand that action carries consequence!

There is inconclusive evidence here to show that it either was or was not a science project gone awry. In the wake of bombings, school shootings, and other tragedies, the police have been criticised for not doing enough, now they do step up they are criticised again. WAKE UP people!!! The teen was wrong! She MUST face the consequences of her actions. If that happens to start at a felony, and later dropped, then so be it, but SHE must learn consequence. Her actions demonstrated a distinct lack of forethought and foresight as to the probable consequences. If it was simply a science project gone awry, it seems doubtful that this action would have been the result.

Ms Wilmot:
you decided to put the chemicals together;
you decided to take it to school.

That is on your head, now face the consequence of those lack of insightful forethought.

Have a good day/.

By Consequences on 2013 05 09, 8:41 am CDT

@67 I hope your kid gets caught playing cowboys and indians at school. He'll get hit with expulsion, felony terrorist threat charges, felony conspiracy charges, weapons charges, etc.

Have a good day!

Is that really what you intended to say?

By DC on 2013 05 11, 9:49 pm CDT

@ 67. Consequences
May 9, 2013 3:41 AM CDT

I am in support of the action taken, and those who are not are teaching people that they can escape the consequences of their actions, which seems rather commonplace in today’s society… a world full of people that fail to understand that action carries consequence!
***
I really hope that is sacrcasm, because if not, you probably should seek therapy. That, or look for a girl with ruby shoes. If the latter, you better really be hoping her name is not Kiera, and she can't identify you with your comment, which runs toward unbalanced rage against rule breakers, even they are not aware that their actions are violating a rule.

By J Dougherty on 2013 05 12, 6:09 am CDT

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