FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 20, 2015
CONTACT: Jennifer Farmer, 202.487.0967
Honors Student Kiera Wilmot Who Was Expelled Over Science Project Attends Astronomy Night at White House, Holds Press Conference October 20th
Wilmot the Subject of Video Underscoring the Need to Return to Common Sense School Discipline
WASHINGTON – A Florida honors student once expelled, arrested and charged with two felonies over a science project, attended Astronomy Night at the White House and will today speak with reporters about the impact of her arrest and the school-to-prison pipeline. Kiera Wilmot, who was humiliated and prohibited from graduating with honors following a baseless arrest and subsequent charges, is in the nation’s capital with her mother, Marie and twin sister, Kayla. The Wilmots will hold a press event at the national racial justice organization, Advancement Project at 1220 L Street, NW, Suite 850 on Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 11:00 a.m. There is a conference call number for reporters unable to be physically present for the event.
“Kiera’s experience is indicative of a larger school discipline crisis,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis. “While every child should have the opportunity to succeed, children of color are often punished unnecessarily. A young African-American woman, an aspiring scientist made an error in an experiment that landed her in handcuffs. This was drastic and harsh, the kind of discipline that Black girls and teens face every day due to a rush to criminalize them. Too often the impact of the school-to-prison pipeline on girls of color is swept under the rug, but Kiera’s story like so many others shows girls face life-changing consequences too.”
WHO: Kiera Wilmot, Marie Wilmot, Thena Robinson Mock
WHAT: Press Conference
WHEN: Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 11:00 a.m.
WHERE: Advancement Project, 1220 L Street, NW, Ste. 850 or via conference call
Conference call number 888.862.6557/password 41022005
In May 2013, Kiera – a standout student from Polk County, Fla. – was handcuffed, hauled to jail and booked on two felony charges after her volcano science experiment malfunctioned. She was later expelled. Her mother Marie Wilmot, spent thousands of dollars trying to clear her daughter’s name and ensure she could finish her studies. Her twin sister, Kayla Wilmot, was harassed and called a terrorist by classmates. After widespread media attention and pressure from groups such as the NAACP Florida State Conference, Kiera was allowed to return to school, albeit with an arrest record. Last year, Advancement Project released a video documenting how Kiera and other students of color are unfairly criminalized and pushed out of schools.
Kiera’s experience is not atypical. Just last month, Ahmed Mohammad, who will also attend the White House event, was arrested in Texas due to a White teacher’s suspicion that his clock was a bomb. While Kiera and Ahmed’s experiences have drawn widespread attention, the plight of other students caught up in the school-to-prison pipeline often goes unnoticed and underreported. Such is disproportionately the case with Black girls who are suspended from school six times more often than their white counterparts around the nation according to the African American Policy Forum.
Across the country, Black girls were six times as likely to be suspended as White girls in 2011-2012.
While Kiera has graduated and was invited to attend the White House event, her story remains a happy ending with residual consequences. She’ll likely spend the foreseeable future explaining why she has an arrest record. Many young people arrested in schools have more traumatic outcomes, as they are less likely to graduate from high school, find good jobs, enroll in college, or enlist in the military.
“We should be encouraging young scientists like Ahmed and Kiera, not criminalizing them because of race,” said Thena Robinson Mock, Project Director for Advancement Project’s Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track campaign. “I applaud the White House for not only recognizing Ahmed’s brilliance, but highlighting the plight of black girls through Kiera Wilmot.”
To participate in the Oct. 20 press conference and hear from Kiera directly, please RSVP to Jennifer Farmer at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her at 202.487.0967.
Advancement Project is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.