Arrested for 'science project gone wrong,' Bartow high school student talks

She says she just wants to return to Bartow H.S.

LAKELAND, Fla. - Standing hand-in-hand with her twin sister, Kiera Wilmot took to the podium.

"I made the mistake of performing my experiment outside of the classroom, however, that is the only mistake I believe I made," she said.

Wilmot, 16, generated global attention after she was arrested on two felony charges for what her family calls "a science project gone wrong."  

Wilmot says she brought a bottle of household chemicals to school so it could get approved by her teacher as a science experiment. However, she says, she was convinced by peers before class to put foil in it, which caused an explosion.

Wilmot was arrested and originally charged with making, possessing, or discharging a destructive device and with possessing or discharging a weapon on school property.

The State Attorney's Office has since dropped all criminal charges.  But in exchange, Wilmot must complete a Department of Juvenile Justice Diversion program.

However, the Polk County School District has not let her return to Bartow High School.

Wilmot is now spending her days at an alternative high school away from her twin sister, Kayla, where she says she has had to deal with harassment and being called a terrorist.

"It's kind of hard to play my viola knowing that my sister can't play her cello by my side," Kayla Wilmot said.

The family, along with the ACLU, are pleading for the district to let her return. The ACLU sent a letter to the Superintendent of Polk County schools on Wednesday calling for the district to allow her to return for the remainder of the school year.

"Kiera's case is part of a dangerous nationwide trend of student behavior being over-criminalized and kids being pushed out of classrooms and into the criminal justice system," said Joyce Hamilton Henry, the Mid-Florida Regional Director for the ACLU. "One mistake shouldn't mean she's denied the future full of opportunities that she was trying so hard to earn," the news release read.

But Ronald Pritchard, the principal of Bartow High School, says there are two sides to this story.

"Just like she wants to come back, I'm sure that other parents want her not to be back because of the safety factor for their student," Pritchard said.

However, Wilmot says this whole thing is all just one big misunderstanding.

"I didn't want anyone to get hurt or any property damaged. This was all just an accident," said Wilmot.

The Polk County School District says they will take the State Attorney's decision into consideration in determining what, if any, further disciplinary action is appropriate.

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