On April 22, 16-year-old Kiera Wilmot was arrested at her Polk County high school for conducting a science experiment. The teen, who has no criminal history and maintained good grades, suddenly found herself trapped in Florida’s insidious school to prison pipeline; which has continually funneled mostly youth of color out of Florida’s schools and into the criminal justice system.
According to a report by Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice, over 57% of the state’s 96,515 youth incarcerated in 2012 were Black and Brown. In Kiera’s home of Polk County, Sheriff Grady Judd has presided over a system in which youth have continually been cycled through county jails in which severe abuses have been alleged including the use of pepper spray and the holding of juveniles in cages.
During the 2013 Florida Legislative Session, Dream Defenders worked with allies in the Florida Campaign for Juvenile Justice to reform Florida’s broken juvenile justice system. Despite repeated community visits to the state capital, briefings and press conferences by advocates and sponsoring legislators, the 2013 Legislative session closed with no action on critical bills such as SB 1374/HB 1039 which would have reformed Florida’s Zero Tolerance law at play in this case.
While Kiera navigates the legal ramifications of her unjust case Polk County Superintendent John Stewart has made the decision to place Kiera in an “alternative school” as he considers expulsion proceedings. Dream Defenders find these actions by Superintendent Stewart reprehensible. Dream Defenders demands that Stewart drop all expulsion proceedings against Kiera Wilmot and allow her to return to her enrollment at Bartow High School.
Dream Defenders calls upon all local, state and national allies to TAKE ACTION to ensure Kiera does not become another casualty of the school to prison pipeline.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
My name is _____________ and I am calling to express my concern about the expulsion proceedings against Kiera Wilmot. Florida has been among the national leaders in furthering a school to prison pipeline; with zero tolerance policies being used to lock up, expel and divert youth from their right to an education. Ms. Wilmot’s case is another example of the state and your office criminalizing and derailing the future of a girl of color. Your handling of her case has been irresponsible and reprehensible. Ms. Wilmot’s actions and intent simply do not warrant expulsion or placement in alternative schooling. I am calling on you to immediately drop all expulsion proceedings against Kiera Wilmot and allow her to return to her regular enrollment at Bartow High School.
In order to make an impact in this case we will need the support of thousands.
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