From Science Fair To Felony Charges

Where has the common sense gone? Has a need to be politically correct at all times brought us to our knees in terms of innovation and exploration? Are we doing a disservice to students by stymieing their curiosity for fear of getting in trouble?

According to a recent article in The Guardian, a Florida teenager was working on a simple experiment in preparation for her school's science fair. She mixed common household chemicals in a small plastic bottle to see how they would react.

The bottle popped "like a firecracker", harmlessly blowing off the lid and creating a small amount of smoke. It's what happened afterward that created a firestorm of controversy.

She could face expulsion, felony charges and a criminal record. According to the school, this student has never been in trouble and serves as a role model for other students.

The school board, meanwhile, issued a statement announcing it was disappointed by the student's "bad choice".

"The incident was a serious breach of conduct. In order to maintain a safe and orderly learning environment, we simply must uphold our code of conduct rules. We urge our parents to join us in conveying the message that there are consequences to actions. We will not compromise the safety and security of our students and staff," the statement said.

OK – I get it. They don't want copy-cat "crimes" to sprout from this incident. But the "consequences to actions" statement needs to be debated. What about the actions that led this student down the path of enlightenment to pursue an experiment in the name of science?  Is her curiosity to be quashed because everything has to be so diluted into a sea of gray?

Apparently the consequence of learning through doing is getting kicked out of school. Imagine if Alfred Nobel, Gregor Mendel, Jonas Salk and Marie Curie were students today. Wait. . . I'd rather not.

Read the full Guardian article here.


Traci-bio-photo.jpgTraci Purdum is Chemical Processing's Senior Digital Editor and champion of cool science experiments and the kids who perform them.
Be sure to check out my page.