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Bartow student says explosive experiment was "an accident"

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Kiera Wilmot (right) next to her sister Kayla and  mother Marie Kiera Wilmot (right) next to her sister Kayla and mother Marie
POLK COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

A 16 year-old girl who set off an explosive science experiment at Bartow High School says she realizes she made a mistake but feels punishment against her has been too harsh.

"This was all just an accident," said Kiera Wilmot, who spoke publicly on Wednesday for the first time. "I made the mistake of performing my experiment outside of the classroom, however, that is the only mistake I feel that I have made."

Wilmot says she carried two ounces of a household cleaner and a fingernail sized ball of foil to school on Monday, April 22, because someone told her it might make a good science fair project. She needed approval from her teacher.

"A friend had suggested it to me but failed to mention the reaction," she said.

Still, she says - to be safe - she took the mixture in a bottle and put it in away from the building; away from other students.

"I thought it would be just like a small volcano," Wilmot said. "Nobody ever told me it would pop like that."

Wilmot said when she saw where the experiment was heading and when another student said she might get in trouble for it, she went to dump out the bottle, but she could feel it expanding in her hand.

She dropped it and ran away "to a safe distance."

"The lid popped off and smoke came out," Wilmot said. "The sound was just like if you were to drop a textbook on the floor."

Her twin sister was there and says people have blown the story out of proportion. YouTube videos show the mixture can be explosive, but the sisters point of Kiera's amount was small.

"When I hear people call it a bomb I just really want to take them by the collar and be like 'it's not a bomb' right there in their face because really - it wasn't a bomb," said Kayla Wilmot. "If you take a water bottle and squeeze it - cap flips off ... it's all it was."

The police arrested Kiera Wilmot that day, although the state attorney has decided not to press charges.

Bartow High Principal Ron Pritchard recommended expulsion and said what happened boils down to the fact there's a principle to follow. In Florida, there's a zero-tolerance policy for dangerous activity on campuses to protect children.

"If I had not done anything, all the students that were out there, the parents would have said well wait a minute something exploded on campus and you didn't investigate it and do anything to protect my child," Pritchard said.

Still, the American Civil Liberties Union and Wilmot's attorney are fighting to get her back in the school where she's always been.

"This is the first time she's ever been in trouble at the school, it's unintentional, it didn't hurt anybody ... but there was a recommendation for expulsion," said Larry Hardaway, her attorney. "This is potentially a teaching moment for this school district."

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