Kiera Wilmot’s Asterix*
It’s nice to report some good news every once in a while: Kiera Wilmot, the teenage girl who was expelled, arrested, and charged with two felonies in April for conducting an unauthorized science experiment on school grounds, will not face any criminal charges after all, according to a report in the The Orlando Sentinel. Her story went viral within hours of hitting the media, sparking considerable outrage across the country, as well as a national petition that seems to have done its job rather well. But the courts did get their pound of flesh from the young lady, as explained by The Sentinel:
The State Attorney said that it extended “an offer of diversion of prosecution to the child,” typically a probationary program that allows the youngster to perform community service and avoid a criminal record. Kiera and her guardian signed the agreement, it said.
While they’re not calling it as such, it seems as if the court essentially offered her a plea bargain: we’ll drop the charges and give you community service, or you can fight us in the courts where you’ll probably lose. Either way, you’re still getting punished; we will not be denied. C’est la vie, I suppose. At least they gave her a choice, and she clearly made the wise one.
All in all, this is good news for aspiring bomb-throwers curious kids all over the nation, but like so many other things in life, the news does come with an asterix: while Ms. Wilmot no longer faces criminal charges, the expulsion verdict has stuck, and she will no longer be allowed to attend Bartow High School. Instead, she is required to attend classes at an alternative high school in order to complete her degree.
As someone who graduated from one of these so-called ‘alternative’ high schools, I can tell you right now that whatever kind of education she was getting at her current school is going to be halved, if not quartered, from here on out. ‘Alternative’ schools are for the following types of kids: those with severe learning disabilities, those who are too socially/behaviorally disruptive and/or violent to attend regular school, or some combination of both. What they aren’t for is bright, yet incredibly bored and mildly rebellious students who are expelled for minor drug offenses under a zero-tolerance district policy (like myself), or for bright, inquisitive teenagers who are interested in pursuing extracurricular activities and, I don’t know … forgot to ask for permission. Ms. Wilmot will be entering into the heart of darkness, the dark underbelly of our public education system: a place where the teachers are often as apathetic and disillusioned as the students, where the budgets are practically nil and educational ‘packets’ are considered an acceptable substitute for books and lectures, and where expressing a genuine desire to learn just might get your ass kicked.
‘Alternative’ schools are not designed for kids to actually learn anything; they’re de facto institutions designed to shuffle ‘problem’ kids out the back door with something approximating a diploma, so that the district can wash their hands of them. The mentality of these schools is as pervasive as it is pernicious, and I know that my experiences in ‘alternative’ education had a dramatic effect on my desire and ability to learn and grow for years afterward. I sincerely hope that, while the educational system has turned its back on Kiera Wilmot, that she does not turn her back on education itself as a result.
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