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Monday, May 7, 2018

The High School Chem Lab Bombing Case: When Zero Tolerance and Administrative Hysteria Replaced Discretion And Common Sense

     On Monday, April 29, 2013, a 16-year-old girl in a high school chemistry class in the central Florida town of Bartow, mixed a couple of household products in an eight-ounce plastic bottle. When Kiera Wilmot, a student with good grades and no history of trouble-making, shook the mix, a mild explosion blew off the bottle cap. (She might have placed cough drops or Tylenol pills into a bottle of soda.) The result of the experiment startled the student more than anyone.

     No one was hurt, the tiny explosion caused no property damage, and the student had not intended anything malicious. (In my day, when mischievous kids got too old to put tacks on teachers' desk chairs, a few of them dropped cherry-bombs into school toilets. Getting caught blowing up a public commode usually resulted in a paddling and a brief expulsion. Unless the student was a known juvenile delinquent, the matter was handled in-house. Police and prosecutors did not get involved.)

     The administrators at Bartow High School, following Wilmot's harmless chemistry experiment, called in the authorities. Notwithstanding the student's background, lack of criminal intent, and the absence of physical harm or property damage, a local prosecutor charged the student with possession and discharge of a weapon on school property and discharging a destructive device. Having been charged with these felonies, school administrators had no choice but to expel the suspected bomber. If convicted of these crimes, Wilmot will have to finish her high school years in an expulsion program.

     Kathleen Nolan, author of Police in the Hallways, told an education reporter that the Wilmot case "...is an example of the absurdity of zero tolerance and the over-use of police intervention in schools....This young woman, all because of misguided curiosity, now faces expulsion and felony charges which could negatively impact her future opportunities and alter the course of her life."

     When looking for the source of such insanity, you usually don't have to look beyond the U. S. Congress. In 1994, Congress passed a law that forces states that receive federal education funds to enact legislation that requires mandatory one-year expulsions for students who bring firearms to school. As one can be expect, school officials and criminal justice practitioners took this law and went to hell with the joke.

     The beauty of a zero-tolerance enforcement policy is that it exempts bureaucrats from having to think. It also protects them from making decisions and taking responsibility for those decisions. It's a policy for people without the guts to lead.

     Although Kiera Wilmot didn't bring a firearm or a bomb to school, Bartow High administrators notified law enforcement authorities. Once the knucklehead prosecutor decided to treat the student as a terrorist, the school had to kick her out. With Wilmot expelled from school, the mindless school administrators and the crusading prosecutor can tell themselves that Bartow High is now a safer place.

     When comparing the Wilmot story to the tale of government incompetence, inaction, and political correctness that led to the Boston Marathon Bombings, it's hard not to conclude that the people in charge of protecting our country possess weird priorities and have no sense of proportion.

     Following Wilmot's ten-day suspension and thousands of dollars in legal costs, the prosecutor dropped the criminal charges against the student. In June 2014, the crime lab bomber graduated from high school, and no thanks to the local prosecutor, looked forward to attending college.

1 comment:

  1. you do know that the Prosecutor decided NOT to charge a WHITE teen for accidentally KILLING THEIR SIBLING in the same week...don't you?