Criminal charges levied against a Florida honor student have been dropped, following an investigation and community plea to reinstate the girl's exemplary reputation and permit her back into school where she belongs.
Kiera Wilmot, 16, was expelled from her high school, arrested and faced felony charges after a chemical explosion on school grounds in April. Practice makes perfect, but the assigned science experiment Kiera had been tinkering with didn't react how she expected.
The school's zero-tolerance approach, like most, requires a severe disciplinary response which was inflicted upon the girl – even though the entire ordeal had been an honest mistake not an act of terrorism. Kiera was cuffed and escorted to a juvenile assessment center.
The student had never been in trouble before and assumed school authorities would understand it was a mere accident. No one had been harmed nor had any major property damage occurred. Instead Kiera's promising future appeared to be in peril.
Thousands of people across the country signed petitions asking for charges to be vacated and for her to be reinstated in school.
The charges were dropped last week, seeing as the circumstance was accidental not intentional. According to ABC News, the nightmarish experiment gone awry struck a chord with NASA veteran and former International Space Station astronaut-trainer Homer Hickam, who wanted to do something to encourage Kiera's passion for science. Hickam graciously raised enough scholarship funds for Kiera and her twin sister, Kayla, to attend the US Space Academy later this July.
The United States Advanced Space Academy is a college-accredited program offered through the University of Alabama-Huntsville, and students receive one hour of freshman level general science credit upon completion.
In the late 1950s, Hickam too had a brush with law enforcement for allegedly starting a forest fire. Hickam and his friends were led away in handcuffs after the state police came to their high school, but his high school physics professor and principal came to the rescue, clearing him of wrongdoing. Schools didn't have zero tolerance policies – punishing students for mistakes with criminal records and jail time.
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