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Zero Tolerance, Science Division

Polk County, Fla., school officials said Kiera Wilmot, 16, committed a “serious breach of conduct.” A local prosecutor said Wilmot committed a felony: “possessing or discharging weapons or firearms” on campus. What did Wilmot do? She put toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil in an 8 oz. bottle near a lake by her school and watched it explode. Wilmot called it a science project, and said she’d only expected it to produce smoke. Principal Ron Pritchard said Wilmot was “a good kid” and had been “very honest” about the incident, and that no injuries or damage to school property resulted. Nevertheless, Wilmot was arrested and expelled. “In order to maintain a safe and orderly learning environment,” said school officials in a press release, “we simply must uphold our code of conduct rules.” Scientists have rallied behind Wilmot online, posting essays in her defense and tweeting about what they’d blown up in school. “Most of us didn’t become scientists because of something that happened in a classroom,” Danielle Lee explained. But police said Wilmot’s science teacher hadn’t known what she was doing. (AC/WTSP St. Petersburg, Toronto Star) ...Because it’s only science if the authorities approve — just ask Galileo.
Original Publication Date: 12 May 2013
This story is in True’s book collections, in Volume 19.

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