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Florida Teen Expelled and Arrested For Science Experiment 1078

Posted by timothy
from the government-schooling dept.
First time accepted submitter ruhri writes "A 16 year-old girl in Florida not only has been expelled from her high school but also is being charged as an adult with a felony after replicating the classic toilet-bowl cleaner and aluminum foil experiment. This has quite a number of scientists and science educators up in arms. The fact that she's African American and that the same assistant state attorney has decided not to charge a white teenager who accidentally killed his brother with a BB gun has some thinking whether this is a case of doing science while black."
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Florida Teen Expelled and Arrested For Science Experiment

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  • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @07:50AM (#43608409) Homepage
    There we go, playing the race card. Sigh. What does a kid with a BB gun have to do with this? Nothing, but it "creates the narrative". We all know what the narrative is, race race race. It's always first on the list and it always gets shoehorned in even if it doesn't belong. Everyone sees it but due to the mainstream media's gatekeeper role nobody can talk back. This is why Americans distrust the media, with 60% saying they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly. [gallup.com]
    • by Shavano (2541114) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @07:56AM (#43608447)
      You could have responded without turning this into race rant yourself.
    • by martas (1439879) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:02AM (#43608515)

      What does a kid with a BB gun have to do with this? Nothing, but it "creates the narrative".

      Funny, if you drop the quotes, instead of "creating a narrative", the BB gun story actually creates a narrative. Namely a narrative where an ADA is out for blood in one instance of possibly reckless behavior from a child that didn't cause anybody any harm, but ignored another instance of possibly reckless behavior from a child that resulted in the loss of life. Whether this has anything to do with race is of secondary importance. The primary issue is the apparent lack of consistency in the severity of prosecution from this ADA.

      • by bsDaemon (87307) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:39AM (#43609027)

        It's only an apparent lack of consistency if you use the two items to create the context in which to judge the responses. Here's the more likely scenario:

        * There was no punishment forthcoming in the accidental shooting case because, after determining that there was no intent involved, and that it was, in fact, accidental, no punishment was deserved. Since there was no possibility of the parents suing themselves for damages, or that affecting the greater population, it got left at that.

        * The incident on school property was punished because A) There was clearly an intent to make the explosion and B) it was on school property. That means lots of children who could potentially have been harmed, and that means lots of parents who could potentially sue the school system. Even if no one got injured, the potential for injury might be enough to have a jury in a civil suit feel that the plaintiff is "entitled" to "damages."

        In that second case, everyone suffers. If the school has to pay out money to one set of irate parents, other suits will likely follow as everyone thinks they need to "get theirs," too. But guess who is on the hook? The school district, funded by property taxes or whatever they use in Florida. Thus, the community is the ones putting up the money to pay out to some jack-ass members of the community who want to take advantage of the situation. Being able to say "Look, no one got hurt but we have dealt with the perpetrator to the fullest extent of the law" goes a long way in staving off civil complaints, or having them be validated by a jury if someone thinks of doing it anyway.

        It's all a CYA move. Does it suck? Yes. is it fair? No. Is life fair? Hell no. But unfortunately, we live in a chicken-shit, overly litigious society where these things happen. My mother is a public school teacher and the district where she teaches has had to deal with things like this in the past. "Science" wasn't involved, but the schools have been sued in the past, and in one incident $5,000,000 was awarded for "negligence" by the administration because two guys were fighting over a girl and one went through a plate glass window. Public schools are strapped enough for cash as it is, and losing $5,000,000 when you're already in budget shortfalls due to declining real estate values (and thus property tax revenue) is tough.

        I would wager anything that was what they were concerned with above anything else.

      • by Nyder (754090) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:41AM (#43609041) Journal

        What does a kid with a BB gun have to do with this? Nothing, but it "creates the narrative".

        Funny, if you drop the quotes, instead of "creating a narrative", the BB gun story actually creates a narrative. Namely a narrative where an ADA is out for blood in one instance of possibly reckless behavior from a child that didn't cause anybody any harm, but ignored another instance of possibly reckless behavior from a child that resulted in the loss of life. Whether this has anything to do with race is of secondary importance. The primary issue is the apparent lack of consistency in the severity of prosecution from this ADA.

        I have an older sister, and she would of gladly shot me in the head with a BB gun growing up. It would of gone well with the other crap she did to her little brother growing up.

        Not saying this girl did it on purpose, but I'm sure I'm not the only person who had a cruel older sibling.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:05AM (#43608539) Journal

      Proportionality. That's what the kid with a BB gun has to do with this. An accidental death caused by a white boy gets no punishment. An accidental chemical hazard that kills no one, but is caused by a black girl gets charged with felonies. That's disproportionate. What exactly is the non-racist explanation for that lack of proportionality?

    • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:13AM (#43608623)

      I used to dismiss things like "driving while black" until, after a fracas about one such incident in New Jersey, several NJ state troopers came forward and said that it was "unofficial" policy. It's also been statistically documented. If I knew I was more likely to get pulled over because of the color of my skin, I'd be damn resentful for the rest of my life. Want an ever better example? Check out the racial stats on Mayor-for-life "Bill of Rights No Longer Applies" Bloomberg's stop and frisk police state program. Also, given how absurd the government's reaction is, I don't blame anyone for playing the race card or using any other trick to do something about this. I thought it was a temporary suspension, which is no big deal, but apparently she "will be forced to complete her diploma through an expulsion program". WTF? Given the absurdity of "zero tolerance" (aka "zero brains") policies, the principal may have little choice. He did say she meant no harm. But being charged with a felony? WTF? Nobody was hurt. Nobody was likely to be hurt. Schoolyard fights have bigger physical consequences. Since the state has prosecutorial discretion, forget any nonsense about them not having any choice. If I'd been prosecuted this way for some of the "experiments" my brothers and I did as teenagers, I'd be doing life.

      • by DudeTheMath (522264) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:32AM (#43608883) Homepage

        Thirty years ago, my high school chemistry teacher taught our (A.P.) class how to make some explosives. What better way to effectively demonstrate exothermic reactions?

        The fact that this nonsense is also occurring in what (IIRC) is the Florida county with the highest teen pregnancy rate is further reinforcement of my belief that, despite all the "STEM! STEM! STEM!" cries, corporate-owned America really wants to keep most people sick and stupid. They've taken a girl who showed some interest and aptitude in real lab science and effectively put her on a welfare track.

      • by Dr. Zim (21278) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:33AM (#43608925) Homepage

        If I'd been prosecuted this way for some of the "experiments" my brothers and I did as teenagers, I'd be doing life.

        No kidding. We'd be under the jail. There used to be a time in this great land of ours when kids could play with things like black powder, acetylene, and sodium and all we'd get is a finger wag by the authorities and maybe have to pay for a trash can we would turn inside out.

    • by L. J. Beauregard (111334) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @10:34AM (#43610503)

      Suppose that she had been a he, had been white, had been the star quarterback and was expelled and charged as an adult for exactly the same act.

      No one would say it was about race or anything else of that sort. Would that make it any less outrageous?

  • Lets not (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 02, 2013 @07:50AM (#43608413)

    Lets not attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity.

    And in this case, I hardly believe its about one being black,although it could play a part, it beingthe us,it seems more a thing about one being gun related and the other science related.

    We all know what many americans hate most.

    • Re:Lets not (Score:5, Insightful)

      by T.E.D. (34228) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:06AM (#43608557)

      I'd like to believe that too. I really would.

      So explain to me how a white teenager who shoots and kills his brother doesn't deserve to be charged with anything, while the same prosecutor decides that a black teenager who didn't injure anyone needs an adult felony conviction to show her that "there are consequences to actions.".

      Perhaps they aren't being racist on purpose, but that's hardly a consolation to the student. Sufficently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

      • Re:Lets not (Score:5, Insightful)

        by wvmarle (1070040) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:42AM (#43609069)

        I also wonder how it is even possible to charge a 16yo as an adult. Those age limits are put in place for a reason - arbitrarily lifting them because some kid did something "exceptionally stupid" makes them worthless.

        And this is really not something that should be punished at all. Other than for doing it on school grounds, presumably without proper supervision and safety measures.

    • Re:Lets not (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SirGarlon (845873) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:17AM (#43608673)
      Speaking of double standards, I think it's rather unfair to jump to the conclusion that the DA charged her because she's black. You'd need to show a history of bias to make an insinuation like that less than libelous. The Huffington Post op-ed [huffingtonpost.com] makes loud protestations that it's not accusing anyone of anything, which might be enough to avert a libel charge. It does fall far short of decency, though. Mr. Lava makes no attempt to consider other possible differences between the cases of the white boy and the black girl, like the age difference between the kids or the fact that the BB gun accident happened at home and the chemistry accident happened at school.
      • Re:Lets not (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Nyder (754090) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @09:07AM (#43609401) Journal

        Speaking of double standards, I think it's rather unfair to jump to the conclusion that the DA charged her because she's black. You'd need to show a history of bias to make an insinuation like that less than libelous. The Huffington Post op-ed [huffingtonpost.com] makes loud protestations that it's not accusing anyone of anything, which might be enough to avert a libel charge. It does fall far short of decency, though. Mr. Lava makes no attempt to consider other possible differences between the cases of the white boy and the black girl, like the age difference between the kids or the fact that the BB gun accident happened at home and the chemistry accident happened at school.

        Actually, I think you are wrong.

        The girl who killed her brother was 13 and she held a gun 6 inches from her brothers head and fire it. Even if it was just an accident, she purposely put a gun (bb gun, but still a gun) to the head of her brother and pulled the trigger. She knew it was a bb gun, she knew it shot bb's. And yet, she still put it to the head of her brother and pulled the trigger.

        You grasp that yet? That girl is not being charged. At 13, she is more then old enough to know better then to put a gun to anyone's head and pull the trigger. I knew better then that when i was 13, shit, I knew better then that when I was 7 (first time i got to play with a bb gun).

        So, we have a case, where a girl purposely put a gun to someones head and killed them, and is not being charged. Then we have this case where a girl does an science experiment on school grounds, made a very small explosion, and she is getting charged as an adult. No one was hurt. She wasn't trying to hurt anyone, she was just repeating a science experiment. Did she do wrong? yes, she should of been supervised, or at least, not on school grounds when she did that.

        So, what is the difference between these 2 stories? 2 young girls, one is 13, and the other is 16. While there is a difference in age, it's not really that much. And it doesn't matter, as both should of known better then to do what they did. So what is the difference? One girl is white and the other is black. And the white girl did a far worse thing, far worse. Even thinking the bb gun was unloaded is no excuse for pointing it at the head of someone, at close range and pulling the trigger.

        So you keep saying there isn't any proof that the charges are racial motivated and those of us who can grasp the obvious will keep discussing them.

        For the record, I am white, and if I was the DA, that white girl would of faced charges (as a kid, not as an adult) and the black girl wouldn't of.

    • Re:Lets not (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thewolfkin (2790519) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:23AM (#43608747) Homepage

      Lets not attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity.

      And in this case, I hardly believe its about one being black,although it could play a part, it beingthe us,it seems more a thing about one being gun related and the other science related.

      We all know what many americans hate most.

      While there is a theory for that, it doesn't line up with the statements released. They're specifically citing the dangerous nature of the girls activities and the hallowed ground aspects of a school along with actions need consequences. I'm all for punishing the girl. Having actually read a few of the articles she did something stupid. Detention would be light. A suspension for a few days should be the most she gets in my opinion. Expulsion and charges are extremely overboard and charging her as an adult comes out of nowhere, considering both the lack of malice, the lack of injury, and uprightness of the accused. She didn't run away she was there when they came for her and owned up for her actions. She had support from students, teachers, and the principal directly. If this isn't a case for SOME sort of leniency what is?

  • by jessecurry (820286) <jesse@jessecurry.net> on Thursday May 02, 2013 @07:51AM (#43608415) Homepage Journal
    I don't think that this is race related, I think that the punishment is so harsh because everyone is scared of improvised explosive devices after Boston. When I first heard the story it was reported as "An Acid Bomb was Set Off At a Local High School".
  • by hsmith (818216) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @07:52AM (#43608421)
    Jails for the mind. NCLB has ruined education, by far GWB worst piece of policy. That coupled with "zero tolerance" which equates to "no thinking by staff" we are ruining a generation of kids. Teaching to tests, which NCLB does prohibits this kind of "thinking" to experiment.

    I'd have a rap sheet a mile long if I was in school and I only graduated 14y ago. And I didn't even do anything bad!
  • by Lawrence_Bird (67278) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @07:56AM (#43608449) Homepage

    America is a bunch of pussies now. Had something like this happened in the 50s-80s..maybe even the 90s, the result would have been a stern reprimand and at most a couple days suspension. This "Daddy" syndrome needs to end. I doubt even the French would freak out the way the school and DA have.

    • by bleh-of-the-huns (17740) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:07AM (#43608575)

      Actually, I suspect if this had happened 20 to 30 years ago, there would not even have been a reprimand for performing the experiment, rather using said experiment (if it was considered a failure), as a learning experience to figure out where the student went wrong.

      At most, I would have been yelled at for not using a fume closet...

      Hell, I went to school in South Africa in the late 80's early 90's.... our science labs had green and black marks all over the ceiling from various "failed" but awesome experiments :)

      • There are props that I made for Video productions I did in high school (87-91) what would have gotten me thrown in jail today.

        I spray painted a plastic water gun black for one production. That in itself would have gotten me expelled, thrown in jail, or worse, but then it didn't even get me in trouble. We ran around the grounds taking video for another production, and who knows what that would have caused.

        In those days I didn't usually feel that school admin. was all that enlightened... but they were wise and patient by today's standards.

      • by gstovall (22014) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @09:00AM (#43609297) Homepage

        Shoot. When I was in high school (in the very early 1980s), we made nitroglycerin and nitrogen triiodide as part of chemistry class.

        The instructions for making nitroglycerin were in the high school chemistry text book, and it even helpfully explained how to improve the rate of the reaction for faster production.

        The guys making nitrogen triiodide were doing so in the enclosed vent chamber, and they sternly warned the instructor not to throw open the door. He failed to heed their warnings, and it exploded and burned off his hair and eyebrows. There were no lectures or discipline -- he acknowledged that they had carefully warned him not to be careless.

        What they did with the liquid suspension was rather creative. :) It's basically inert while in suspension, but very unstable when dry. So they took eye droppers and wandered the halls of the school, randomly dropping drops of it on the floor. It dried in time for classes to swich. Lots of little firecracker bangs as people walked down the hallway and activated the dried samples on the floor. :)

        As a junior high student (and high school student), I used to go around the school demonstrating potassium permanganate and glycerin for various classes. It was a great way to get young minds interested in the sciences and fascinated with chemistry.

        Now, all 4 of my children have had high school chemistry (youngest is just now finishing it up). There is NO experimentation or lab work -- they are not allowed to touch any chemicals. The teacher is not even allowed to do the potassium permanganate experiment -- it is deemed too likely to cause students to become terrorists. I'm thoroughly disgusted by what has happened to the educational process in this country.

        My oldest is graduating college in 2 days. Over the last 4 years, he has brought home horror stories about the rigid mindset that he has experienced in the classroom. Nearly all the college instructors (and this is at a large public university) absolutely insist that their perspective be parroted back -- there is zero tolerance for discussion and debate. People with differing beliefs and perceptions are publicly ridiculed and humiliated.

        When I was in college at Texas A&M, my philosophy prof was the faculty advisor for the Gay and Lesbian student association. Despite the fact that he and I shared very few common positions on the topics discussed and written about in class, we got along well. He commended me at the end of the class, saying that I had presented my positions with clarity and precision, and I achieved a high A in his class. Apparently, that experience would be rare now.

  • Weapon (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SJHillman (1966756) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @07:57AM (#43608459)

    So now anything that blows up is automatically a weapon? I hope their school buses don't run on gas or diesel engines, then they would have to charge all the bus drivers with bringing weapons to school every day.

    This is almost as stupid as suspending a 7 year old for having a pastry that's vaguely gun-shaped.
    http://www.loweringthebar.net/2013/03/pastry-gun.html [loweringthebar.net]

  • by yog (19073) * on Thursday May 02, 2013 @07:59AM (#43608483) Homepage Journal

    When I was in school, it was basically a full time job for many of us boys to figure out ways to make ever larger and more dramatic explosions happen. We used to fill trash bags full of methane from the lab, seal them with tape, then release them with a lit fuse and watch this huge fireball in the sky (I stopped before the principal took notice, so I didn't get caught:). I mean, kids just do stuff like that.

    The difference today is the zero-tolerance rules in many public schools where even a little 6-year-old boy making a shape of a gun with his hand and going "bang!" at another kid is grounds for suspension.

    As usual, bureaucracy gets it wrong. That girl should be reinstated and an apology should be issued, otherwise she'll be barred for life from many professions (albeit, as a minor theoretically her record is sealed, but in reality she's screwed).

    And racism? That was just an extra little tidbit the OP added to spice things up. Ridiculous.

  • What science? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Keith Mickunas (460655) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:00AM (#43608493) Homepage

    Was this really a science experiment? She was mixing household chemicals in a plastic bottle on school property. It had nothing to do with her science class. It's more likely she got this stuff out of the janitor's closet or something like that. It sounds more like a kid being stupid rather than one experimenting.

    Not that I agree with the penalty in any way. Detention or suspension would be ok here since no real harm came from it. It doesn't merit police involvement, or comparison to an accidental shooting.

  • by RevDisk (740008) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:02AM (#43608505) Journal
    Zero Tolerance means zero intelligence. Circumstances are always different. Thanks to our wonderful school and legal systems, there's less discretion. The bad and good part of discretion is bias. A straight-A good kid will be given the benefit of a doubt over a kid that has a reputation for being a troublemaker. On one hand, it's possibly a good rule of thumb... but it can lead to folks getting railroaded unfairly.

    The "solution" then is to treat EVERYONE badly. I'm not that old, and my school had a policy of "both kids in a fight get punished." Didn't matter if you got jumped for being a geek with pacifist philosophy. OTOH, it was a learning experience about bureaucracy, government and pacifism. I dumped the pacifism, and the next kid that jumped me, I earned every ounce of my administrative punishment because I had no incentive NOT to do so. Zero tolerance and "everyone involved is equally guilty" is bunk, and a bad idea.
  • by therealkevinkretz (1585825) * on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:02AM (#43608509)

    I clicked the link already angry at what I expected to find - a story about an ignorant, probably racist bureaucrat ruining a smart kid's life for no good reason.

    But as someone who (as a kid) did more than my share of disruptive, loud, messy things, I can tell you that even before 9/11 and IEDs and "zero tolerance" doing this in a school bathroom would have resulted in punishment. This wasn't a classroom experiment - no teachers were aware of it - and, like it or not, Drano (or an equivalent toilet cleaner) is a pretty harsh chemical.

    This won't be a popular post, but I don't think the story lives up to the headline.

    • by jbmartin6 (1232050) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:11AM (#43608597)
      Not many are saying that punishment isn't warranted. The problem is that the police were involved at all, that's the ridiculous part. Frankly if the police and DA have time to get involved in this sort of thing layoffs are long past due in this district.
    • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:12AM (#43608613) Journal

      No one is saying it's OK. We're saying it's not a felony. Make the kid clean up the mess and suspend her for a week. Problem solved.

      Excessive criminalization is a much bigger threat to us all than kids with drano bombs.

    • by sanosuke001 (640243) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:15AM (#43608645)
      I see no mention in the article about a bathroom; it was outside near a gazebo and she stated that she was doing a science fair experiment.
    • by Uninvited Guest (237316) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:52AM (#43609193)
      According to the incident report [scribd.com], "Mr. Durham advised Kiera told him she was conducting a science fair experiment... Wilmot advised she did not know what would happen when she mixed the ingredients. Wilmot advised she thought it would just cause some smoke." There were no injuries, no damage, not even clear intent. Where is the felony crime here? It's only in the mind of Assistant State Attorney Tammy Glotfelty.
  • by bistromath007 (1253428) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:11AM (#43608609)
    ...tells me that it is massively unlikely this was intellectual curiosity. Some kid thought it would be funny to make a huge bang at a place where huge bangs are known to cause massive administrative overreaction.

    When I first read this, I thought it was horrible. One of the articles linked in the story here called it a botched experiment. What kind of loony racist throws the book so hard at a kid who messed up a project? Then I went looking for the "experiment" and learned there was pretty much definitely nothing botched about this. Youtube is full of works bombs, which is apparently what these are called. A popular chemistry blog I stumbled into explains these are actually illegal to make. And I really don't see what else you could do with these components.

    Now, this kid certainly doesn't deserve to be tried as an adult for multiple felonies just because they made a total dipshit choice that hurt nobody. But what's going on here is just usual-business prosecutorial excess, not racism. Ruining dumb high school kids' lives is practically what these fuckers live for lately, regardless of skin tone.
    • by rasmusbr (2186518) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:57AM (#43609255)

      ...tells me that it is massively unlikely this was intellectual curiosity. Some kid thought it would be funny to make a huge bang at a place where huge bangs are known to cause massive administrative overreaction.

      I don't understand, isn't that what intellectual curiosity is, at least if you're a teenager? This is how most scientists and engineers started out, by doing stupid experiments or building stupid things. That's how people learn.

      Imagine where the economy would be today if every kid who tried to DDOS their school system had been tried for using a cyber weapon on school property.

  • what makes it fun (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SkunkPussy (85271) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:12AM (#43608611) Journal

    Its exactly that kind of stuff that got me into chemistry in the first place

    • Re:what makes it fun (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:41AM (#43609037)

      This, completely. As I've remarked elsewhere, if this kind of logic had been applied when I was a kid I'd have been in prison. A LOT. I'd have also not got a master's degree in chemistry from a damn good Uni. One of my friends would have not ended up getting a PhD in the physical properties of high explosives and working someplace where he can't tell us a lot about what he does (it's either nukes or defeating armour, I just don't know which.)

      AC - I don't want to end up on a no-fly list!

  • by HagraBiscuit (2756527) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:14AM (#43608633)
    How and where can I contribute to the legal costs for the family of this student? I want them to hire the best advocates money can provide, I want to see that judge humiliated for attempting to destroy the future of a curious student who made a mistake leading to an incident where no harm was either done or intended.
  • by hairykrishna (740240) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:22AM (#43608737)

    I was far from a bad teenager. I loved science though and if it went bang that was all the better. Draino and aluminium foil? Jesus. I made fertiliser bombs. I synthesised Nitrogen triiodide and all manner of other fun compounds.

    One bonfire night I once had a visit from the police due to my homemade titanium salutes. They were amused and told me not to blow my hands off. These days I'd go to jail for a million years.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:26AM (#43608801)

    My now 17 year old Son was expelled from high school two years ago for... get this... popping a regular old helium balloon. He was charged with Disorderly Conduct (the catch-all "when we want to charge you with something" summary crime in Pennsylvania) but we managed to get that dismissed at the Magisterial District Court after about $15,000 in legal fees, most of which was spent trying to obtain school surveillance video showing that the balloon popped when he leaned up against a wall, pinching the balloon between his backpack and the wall, causing it to pop.

    We've home-schooled him since then. It's truly amazing how absolutely brain-dead our government has become. It really does destroy everything it touches, including the education system.

    As the saying goes, "zero tolerance = zero common sense"

  • by mtrachtenberg (67780) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @09:57AM (#43610027) Homepage

    My immediate response to this item was to wonder whether the student in question was a constant annoyance to the teachers and administrators. The original article makes it clear that she is a model student: "Kiera Wilmot got good grades and had a perfect behavior record. She wasn't the kind of kid you'd expect to find hauled away in handcuffs and expelled from school, but that's exactly what happened after an attempt at a science project went horribly wrong."

    That additional information (which really should have been in Slashdot's summary, as it was properly used in the reporter's lede) makes it clear that the student is being wronged. Whether she is being wronged as a result of racism or as a result of the inherent stupidity of zero-tolerance policies (policies from which exceptions are often made for the children of the wealthy and/or powerful) remains to be determined. Perhaps both are involved.

    This is a teachable moment for the school. It is an opportunity for students and faculty together to examine the nature of fairness and the nature of bureaucracy. I hope there are some tenured faculty members at the school who are interested in making good use of the opportunity.

    My own suspicion is that the administrators should be fired, but I think that way about a great many administrators.

  • by smack.addict (116174) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @09:57AM (#43610043)

    I do think the race issue is worth discussing. As well as the gender issue.

    But there's something more fundamental and less likely to stoke passions at play here:

    DOING SCIENCE IS ABOUT MAKING MISTAKES. Her "punishment" should be to write a paper on what she was trying to do and why the results were not what she expected. Simple, end of story.

    There should be no real punishment of any kind, much less the over the top expulsion and arrest.

    The simple fact is that she should be encouraged to make mistakes, not punished for them. And the most basic problem we are dealing with is that our school systems don't understand this fact.

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