A teenage girl could face up to five years in prison for “discharging weapons or firerarms” on the grounds of Bartow High School in the town of Bartow, Florida. Kiera Wilmot, 16, was arrested by local police and taken into custody after causing a small explosion on campus.
There were no deaths, and no injuries. In fact, the only property damaged by the explosion was an eight ounce plastic water bottle. That’s because the “weapon” Wilmot detonated was a mixture of toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil, which she mixed together in the bottle as part of an apparent amateur science project.
Nonetheless, Wilmot—who has consistently good grades and no prior criminal record—is being brought up on felony charges, and will be tried as an adult.
“It’s emblematic of a national issue,” Bro/Sis Executive Director Khary Lazarre-White said on Wednesday’s All In w/ Chris Hayes. “Over three million cases of expulsion and severe suspensions across the country, and it’s a zero tolerance policy that is expelling children for the kinds of things that got us sent to the principal’s office or talked to by a teacher, at worst, when we were in school.”
These aggressive measures disproportionately affect black students like Wilmot. A full 40% of the students expelled from school each year are black, and 70% of in-school arrests are either black or Latino, according to data collected by PBS. In California, about a quarter of all expulsions are for “willful defiance,” according to data from the office State Superintendent for Public Instruction.
Nonetheless, recently a handful of public figures have called for even more of a police presence in America’s public schools. In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre demanded “armed police officers in every school in this nation.”