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back to article Thousands rally behind teen girl cuffed, expelled in harmless 'explosion'

Controversial decisions by officials in Florida to arrest, charge and expel from school a teenage girl (and model student) for causing a totally harmless "explosion" by mixing household products in a plastic bottle are attracting widespread condemnation. Kiera Wilmot, 16, a student at Bartow High School in Florida, is no …

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For some reason this reminded me of the episode of The Sinpsons that featured the "Independent thought alarm". The child's thought that is. The prosecutors and the assistant principal sure as hell set off the "incapable of rational thought alarm" though.

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Facepalm

Simpsons*

Gah, in this world of mobile phone keyboards I need a damn edit button.

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Anonymous Coward

The American Bar Association

Has better comments on this story:

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/teen_faces_felony_charges_in_water_bottle_incident_was_it_a_science_project/

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yeah

Her mistake was not to be carrying a gun instead and then Florida would be giving her a medal.

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Facepalm

Re: yeah

"Her mistake was....." Her mistake was doing the "experiment" on school property. For a supposed straight A student that was just plain stupid. I did much worse in my day, but I was always careful to do so far from the eyes of adults, and very far from school authorities.

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Her other mistake....

was being a model student.

The system seems to bend over backwards to make life easy for problem students (aka disadvantaged/troubled/whatever).

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Anonymous Coward

OOPS!

"As a teenager he personally created and let off many "destructive devices" of much greater power than Ms Wilmot's."

They are coming for you Lewis.

If it helps, theres an arrow buried 6" into an oak tree in my old back garden caused by similar experiments with plumbing supplies and Silverkrin.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: OOPS!

I was never really into explosions - but I did once set fire to the inside of a hollow tree "to see what would happen", the answer as it turns out was a jet engine type roar and eight foot flames coming from the top of the tree

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: OOPS!

"the answer as it turns out was a jet engine type roar and eight foot flames coming from the top of the tree"

I would have bought tickets for that

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Pirate

Re: OOPS!

I think most of us as teens did similar things.

But that was then and before things like 9/11, 7/7 and now 4/15 (Boston).

Yes its very easy to walk in to a grocery store or a pharmacy and buy household chemicals to make explosives. Heck, you don't even need to do that to make thermite.

While I don't condone the girls getting charged, I do think that they were stupid and should have been more careful.

Doing it on school grounds should have been reason for a short suspension, but other than that... imagine if they mixed amonia and bleach together in a confined space with poor ventilation....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: OOPS!

Given the propensity of the UK police to dredge out crimes from 46 years ago (see Ken Barlow of Coronation St) I think Lewis is on dangerous ground with such admissions of guilt.

Iodine and ammonia (Nitrogen TriIodide) are quite effective for making a bang as my sister will attest. It works well on toilet seats too.

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Re: OOPS!

"Yes its very easy to walk in to a grocery store or a pharmacy and buy household chemicals to make explosives. Heck, you don't even need to do that to make thermite."

Yes. In the USA, this is almost as easy as walking to the local shops and picking up an AK47 with a couple hundred rounds. Nip back home, shoot someone by accident and be let off scot free. Unfortunate accident; nothing more. I really can't imagine how a society that allows children to shoot pretty much anything they like then think it's reasonable to do anything about a coke bottle experiment.

They've got people in the Rocky mountains running around with automatic weapons and playing at 'survival' and don't seem to do much about it, but a child doing something pretty harmless gets the book thrown at her. Amazing lack of judgement at all levels. Yes, it could be dangerous and people could be harmed, but certainly not as much as having more weapons than people in the country.

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Angel

Re: OOPS!

Imagine they set off a nuclear device. Off to Guantanamo with them ! ! !

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Re: OOPS!

She's 16. That makes her 4 at 9/11. She lives in a town I've never heard of in Florida, which is a long way from New York City. 7/7 was in London. Do you honestly think that requiring teenagers to act in accordance with things so remote to their experience is realistic or even fair?

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Re: OOPS!

I wasn't that into it either. I did my chemistry week experiment as making an improvised explosive device though.

(Trying to make it as cheap as possible but still fairly safe.)

First time in school that they would give you whatever you wanted. I made quite a big crater in the girls hockey pitch. Barium Peroxide was the only chemical I ever noticed the teachers taking extreme care with so I thought I would use that as a detonator.

My grandfather as a child used to make fireworks by buying what was needed from the chemist. (You could just buy concentrated nitric acid / test tubes everything you needed just from the chemist. Even if you were a very young child).

Now it is getting I think to the point where you cannot do anything.

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Stop

Re: OOPS!

"But that was then and before things like 9/11, 7/7 and now 4/15 (Boston)."

And yet after The Troubles, Guy Fawkes, and a bunch of airliners getting blown up in the 70s.

Really, 9/11 has zero bearing. It's a kid. And not even technically a real explosive. Policing and Prosecution alike need to apply the law with a degree of common f**king sense, rather than with the obstinate wankery of a recently divorced traffic warden with trapped wind.

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Re: OOPS!

Mad Mike, you sir are either a master of sarcasm or a fucktard. an "AK47" in a fully automatic variant would be a Class 3 NFA item and unable to be purchased unless the item was manufactured prior to 1986 without being a a "Special Occupation Taxpayer" - ie a dealer who is selling the device to a credentialed LEO/LEA

A semi-automatic configuration fires one round each time the trigger is pulled. And yes, you can walk into a licensed dealer and buy one. At which time you will be required to fill out a form and submit to a background check to make sure that you are not prohibited from ownership by either a felony conviction or an involuntary commitment to a mental hospital.

As far as the number of firearms in private ownership- yes, we have only to look at Mexico, our peaceful neighbor to the south, to see what a total ban on private ownership does for the crime rate. Or even some cities in the US: Chicago, New York and DC)

This young lady had a chem experiment go wrong. No one was hurt. No damage was done. So let's ruin her life by marking her a felon so some worthless DA can make a name for themselves.

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Stop

Re: OOPS!

"yes, we have only to look at Mexico, our peaceful neighbor to the south, to see what a total ban on private ownership does for the crime rate. "

Correlation is not causation.

Banning firearms itself didn't 'do' anything to the crime rate in itself in Mexico. You're making a ridiculous argument.

It was the turf wars of psychotic murdering assholes involved in the drug industry that caused the high rate of crime. Which of course was caused by overseas drug demand. And the total failure of law enforcement to enforce the legislation once in place due to corruption and poor quality of policing. And further worsened by the number of firearms being smuggled into Mexico along a porous border from the US.

You can't say 'firearm regulation doesn't work' if it's not enforced, if people are smuggling in weapons as fast as they are taken off the streets, and unless there is a concerted effort to get them off the streets. It's like saying 'dieting doesn't work' while sneaking off for a BigMac every lunchtime.

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Re: OOPS!

As part of my primary school physics lessons my teacher let all the kids in the class create their own rockets using a 2 litre coke bottle, a rubber bung, some water and a foot pump. I'll grant you that there's no chemical reaction involved but the results were probably very similar to what this girl achieved.

As for your ridiculous comment about 9/11, most people on these forums were likely conducting their childhood explosive experiments at the same time as the IRA was conducting their multi-decade campaign of lethal fuckwittery.

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Re: OOPS!

@Curtis

"Mad Mike, you sir are either a master of sarcasm or a fucktard. an "AK47" in a fully automatic variant would be a Class 3 NFA item and unable to be purchased unless the item was manufactured prior to 1986 without being a a "Special Occupation Taxpayer" - ie a dealer who is selling the device to a credentialed LEO/LEA"

At this point, I will take the master of sarcasm charge you've laid. I will prove this further by pointing out that I come from a relatively speaking sane country (not the USA) and therefore do not understand the exact ins and outs of American gun ownership law. However, this is the reason why I also understand that thinking there is really any perceivable difference (in damage inflicted terms) between a weapon being automatic or semi-automatic is madness, especially when they have a standard magazine capacity of 30 rounds. It simply means you can shoot 1 person every half second (total 30) rather than 30 in a couple of seconds shorter time by using automatic fire. I also understand that someone using a semi-automatic will probably aim each shot more and therefore will probably hit more people than someone simply spraying on full automatic and therefore the semi-automatic model would quite probably cause greater casualties.

But then, what would a country that thinks not having its population permanently armed to the hilt know about firearms?

For information, Mexico may well have more murders and tighter gun control, but then Britain has very tight gun control and very few murders with guns, so your correlation simply isn't supported by reality.

Don't get me wrong. I do think that Britain has gone a bit too far. But then, I wouldn't suggest that allowing just about anyone to own an AK47 (whether auto or semi) is a good idea either. Sensible compromise is the answer, but American gun laws and action against this law clearly show this is not a concept America understands.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: OOPS!

"standard magazine capacity of 30 rounds"

Presumably two magazines would be taped back to back (reversed) so the pause in the middle of 60 rounds is minimal. That was the standard configuration for the kibbutz weapons when I was on a fruit-picking holiday many years ago.

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Boffin

Re: OOPS!

Why all the down votes?

Clearly I'm old enough to have a) done worse as a youth, and b) have kids their age.

The difference is that

1) We didn't have the constant worry about home made bombs going off killing or seriously injuring people.

2) Unlike the the girls, we took precautions to keep us safe.

3) We didn't do any of this on school grounds.

Should the girls face criminal charges? No.

Should the girls face disciplinary action from the school? Yes.

There's a reason why there is a disclaimer on the TV shows that kids shouldn't do things on their own.

Sorry, but lets be real. The school system has to protect itself and it has to re-enforce that its possible to do something stupid and someone can get hurt. They have to set an example so others think before doing something similar but even more dangerous...

I wonder if you can still buy iodine crystals at a local pharmacy these days....

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Boffin

@Mad Mike Re: OOPS!

I think you've been watching too much TV.

First school age kids can't run around with weapons legally. Technically the .22 rifle they got for Xmas or their birthday is owned by their parents. Also you better believe that when a parent give a gun to a teen, they teach the teen about proper gun safety. (Or rather they should...) [Think of it as evolution in action]

Also in an accidental shooting, no one is let off scot free. They may not face charges or jail time, but there are still repercussions.

Note that I'm not advocating any jail time, however because they did this on school property, I think that its fair that the school does something.

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Boffin

@h3 ... Re: OOPS!

Yup, you pretty much proved my point.

When my father was a kid. The pharmacist had everything. That was pretty much the same up into the 50's and 60's.

When I was a kid, you could get certain things via mail order. But some of the stuff was controlled, but it was still possible.

Today? Not so much.

Heck 10-15 years ago, you could get Ammonium Nitrate fertilizers and of course diesel fuel. Today? LOL... try it and the feds will come a-knocking.

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Mushroom

Re: OOPS!

Ever seen a firecracker inside a bottle of St Ivel 5 pints? (do they still sell it?). Very satisfying fireball.

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Childcatcher

Re: OOPS!

@IMG - I downvoted because of this statement:-

'Doing it on school grounds should have been reason for a short suspension'

This was a kid exhibiting curiosity and you want to suspend her ?

Like most others I did stuff like this as a kid. I also did it on school grounds on 2 occasions - one of those causing a complete blackout of the entire school (don't ask). Now fortunately for me those in charge at the time believed in teaching kids and not simply minding them for a few hours and so they dragged me into a room and gave me a good bollocking .. and that was it.

In this case there wasn't even any damage so a sane reaction would have been to have a quick chat about the expected effect and possibly plan a formal and safe experiment that everyone can watch and learn from.

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Re: OOPS!

Since Iodine is used in the conversion of pseudoefedrine to amphetamine, iodine crystals are difficult to obtain. Just ask the retiree who repacked bulk Iodine into small vials for resale as a water purification aid by outdoors camping stores. When the feds asked him about his security arrangements, he sent them a picture of his pet "watch dog". They were not impressed.

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Pint

Re: @h3 ... OOPS!

Ian Michael Gumby (damnit),

She probably should get a stern talking to tempered with a lecture on discussing experiments with a science teacher before trying them out. Especially anything picked up from the internet. The harshest penalty should be a detention. Calling in the cops is way out of proportion.

The experiment she did was not an explosive. It was a reaction that produced gas that could cause the bottle to rupture. Most plastic pop bottles are designed to blow their cap off before the bottle ruptures, but it's usually a close thing and not a universal design goal. There is also no "smoke" as there is not combustion. It's vapor from the toilet bowl cleaner, the chlorine gas and water vapor from the rapid change in pressure.

Ammonium nitrate fertilizer is no problem to get and diesel fuel is sold on a plethora of street corners around the world. The feds will come knocking if you order the fertilizer online or by phone and ask to have it delivered to a city address. If you show up at the agriculture supply shop in your Ford F-350 pickup and pay cash, no problem or alarm bells. Just don't wear a suit or middle eastern fashion. A Caterpillar (or JCB) cap would not go amiss.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: OOPS!

A five-year-old boy who shot dead his two-year-old sister in the US state of Kentucky used a gun marketed for children, authorities have said.

Kristian Sparks was given the .22-calibre rifle, called a Crickett, as a gift.

The Cumberland County coroner said a bullet had been left in the gun ahead of Tuesday's shooting.

Caroline's death has been ruled accidental, and it is not clear whether any charges will be filed.

'Normal'

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-22386105

2 May 2013

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Mushroom

Re: OOPS!

Nope... they'd be "buried" in Colorado's SuperMax prison, never to be seen again.

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Re: @Mad Mike OOPS!

"First school age kids can't run around with weapons legally. Technically the .22 rifle they got for Xmas or their birthday is owned by their parents. Also you better believe that when a parent give a gun to a teen, they teach the teen about proper gun safety. (Or rather they should...) [Think of it as evolution in action]"

If I believed this was done to allow Darwin and his 'laws' to work, I would applaud the system. However, I'm pretty convinced, it's actually stupidity on the behalf of lawmakers. The other issue is that the kid could just have easily killed someone completely unconnected with the decision, so Darwin isn't working then. Many parents in the USA aren't teaching their kids about proper gun safety, keep their guns way too available etc. and that's why there are so many shootings. Whether the parent owns the gun or not is really quite irrelevant. I agree the 5 year old had no idea what he was doing and will have to live with the consequences for the rest of his life. Hopefully, this will make him treat his children and guns better than his parents treated him. There is no way on this earth that the parents should avoid significant legal penalties for such acts of crass stupidity that allowed this to happen. It is epic negligence at best.

"Also in an accidental shooting, no one is let off scot free. They may not face charges or jail time, but there are still repercussions."

Yes, if they have a conscience. However, if they had a conscience of any real mental powers, this wouldn't have happened in the first place, so the parents are probably busy off blaming someone else. I repeat what I said above. The parents should be facing serious legal action.

"Note that I'm not advocating any jail time, however because they did this on school property, I think that its fair that the school does something."

I don't think anyone is saying the school should do nothing. Just that sending in the stormtroopers is completely disproportionate. But then, people in the USA have never really understood proportionate response. Ample history of using B52s to take out individuals.

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Re: OOPS!

"1) We didn't have the constant worry about home made bombs going off killing or seriously injuring people."

Completely irrelevant. You can't change your whole way of life based on a few nutters planting bombs. Britain was extensively bombed during the 70s and 80s, but we didn't suddenly start prosecuting kids for stupid trivia.

"2) Unlike the the girls, we took precautions to keep us safe."

Difficult to tell what precautions they took. There's not enough detail. However, nobody was hurt, so maybe they did take precautions. Who knows.

"Sorry, but lets be real. The school system has to protect itself and it has to re-enforce that its possible to do something stupid and someone can get hurt. They have to set an example so others think before doing something similar but even more dangerous..."

Yes, let's be real. You don't go around potentially ruining a girls life for a stupid prank. It's called proportionality. Nobody is suggesting she shouldn't get a right royal bollocking. But suspension? Yes, let's get into the real world. The world outside of the USA.

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Re: OOPS!

Of course in Florida, should an armed bystander have felt threatened by the device, he/she could "stand their ground" and shoot and kill Ms. Wilmot.

This is total insanity and actionable lack of common sense. The school authorities and state official that authorized the charges are the ones to be scrutinized IMO.

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Re: OOPS!

Unless you purchase it (the semi-automatic version) from a gun show or your neighbor.

No background check, no papers to fill out. In Arizona, one is required to sign a form that any guns purchased at a licensed dealer be for the buyer's use only. Except, of course, the law allows the buyer to change their mind with no consequences as soon as they leave the shop.

91% of Americans agree that universal background checks for those buying any guns should be mandatory. However, the NRA and arms manufacturers instructed their minions in the US congress to filibuster even a watered down bill.

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: OOPS! @Psyx

"obstinate wankery..."

FPMSL.

New keyboard please!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: OOPS!

Look, when I was at school the crafts master helped someone build a full scale hunting crossbow and forge some bolts for it. He got a grade 1 in Technology A level, too.

Her mistake was to do it in Florida, where in some towns, so I am told, when an alligator walks down the main street it raises the average IQ.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Mad Mike OOPS!

"Also you better believe that when a parent give a gun to a teen, they teach the teen about proper gun safety. "

Like the 5 year old that shot and killed his two year old sister only the other day.

No, I don't better believe it, because I know that many, many parents do not have a clue about bringing up children.

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Pint

Re: OOPS!

Considering that a similar result may sometimes be achieved with Quinine Water merely by SHAKING it, we are all in a lot of trouble.

Gin only, please.

Beer. Call it a chaser, BATF type.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: OOPS!

"Britain was extensively bombed during the 70s and 80s"

I think that as WW2 and WW1 become part of ancient history, our attitudes are changing. During the 80s people who fought in WW2 were just coming up for retirement. My father survived D-Day, when the Germans were actively trying to kill him, and weeks thereafter on a Normandy beach with occasional Stuka strikes. The IRA were just background noise for people like him, no reason to stop taking the Underground or avoid government buildings. I, younger generation and professional coward, preferred to walk from Paddington to Marble Arch. Our headmaster at school flew Lancasters and our technology master had been a Mosquito pilot. They were pretty relaxed about a bit of risk, because they knew the difference between real and apparent danger. The same went for the politicians. Ted Heath had taken tanks through Germany in WW2, he really wasn't going to freak out at a mere miners' strike. It was Margaret Thatcher, who had probably never been near live ammunition, who thought that the miners were some kind of enemy army.

By 2000, the USA (which was never at risk of invasion or bombing) had largely forgotten about war but accepted high levels of road deaths and gun deaths. 9/11 seems to have been a tremendous psychological shock to which they have overreacted massively. They also seem to be trying to export their massive overreaction to the rest of the world. And, despite the Unabomber, they still seem to think that the risk comes from people who are non-white,

I suspect but cannot prove that if the person who did this had been in the football team, we'd never have heard about it.

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Coat

Re: OOPS!

I would like to point back to my post http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/1712081 on the 31st of Jan.

It would appear that in the 3months since that post, America has shown they still haven't gotten a f*cking clue!

Il get my coat again.

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@I think so I am?: Re: ""I would like to point back to my post"

"I would like to point back to my post http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/1712081 on the 31st of Jan."

I'd like to point out one of the responses to your post:

"They need to get a clue in the UK as well. For 8 weeks the area I live in was ravaged by 2 scumbags who burgled as many homes as possible. The police knew who they were but were powerless without any hard evidence. The reason they were doing this? They were awaiting sentencing on similar charges and knew they would get jail time. Since all sentences in the UK are concurrent they had a "free pass". If they were caught they would have it added to their charges and it would make no difference to the sentence they were going to get."

(http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2013/01/30/fbi_arrest_sexploitation_hacker/#c_1712342 -

Anonymous Coward Thursday 31st January 2013 10:31 GMT)

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Happy

Re: OOPS!

Yup! My favourite was screwed-up newspaper (yes I know they're all screwed up these days) shoved into the bottom of a cast-iron drainpipe and set alight.

The organ-pipe type deep roar & resonance had to be experienced to be believed.

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Meh

Re: OOPS!

@Curtis Reality won't effect these people, they are ignorant bigots who's minds are made up. They know our laws better than we do, really, just ask them, they will tell you all about it. And they know all about the USA, its just like on TV! really!

And they had a cousin who went last year! And he saw real guns! In the Toy store! automatic weapons! They have them in candy machines! And they carry them to school! You can get bazookas at the 7/11! and no background checks! They read it somewhere!

They are terribly fascinated with what they cannot have and will not rest will we are free to be killed by chavs for our cellphones just like in "civilized" counties.

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Re: OOPS! Why all the downvotes?

I'm confused about what the downvoters are downvoting - in other words, could someone clarify what the downvoters are disagreeing with?

That it's easy to purchase household chemicals with which to make some kind of explosive? That's simply a fact - kind of hard to disagree with.

That Gumby doesn't think the girls should have been charged? I don't think so either - it seems a ridiculous overreaction to the what happened - and the majority here seem to agree, so why would that sentiment be downvoted.

That the girls were stupid? Well, I would have phrased it differently. THEY probably aren't stupid - but what they DID was kind of a stupid stunt, because they did it at school instead of somewhere they wouldn't have gotten in trouble for a chemical experiment. They pretty much knew what was going to happen.

That making something go "bang!" on school grounds merits a short suspension? That's fairly common. And Gumby has a point - some experiments can have rather disastrous, or life-threatening consequences.

That most of us as teens did similar things? I kind of doubt "most" of us pulled a prank like that at school (pranks are still a minority activity).....

but Gumby has a point here too: in public or taxpayer-funded locations, there is less tolerance now than there was in the past for pranks that might cause a bomb scare, i.e., for anything that resembles an explosion or gunshot.

I didn't upvote Gumby's post, by the way, didn't see any reason to vote one way or another.

But COULD someone clarify what is being downvoted? I'm not understanding what's so objectionable about the comment....what am I missing?

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Holmes

Re: OOPS! @Mad Mike

Just read your own post again, Mike. Look at it from the police point of view - wouldn't it be a lot easier and safer to apprehend a 16-year old girl than to go seriously into the mountains and try to round up armed 'survival' players? Another case solved with minimal exertion, and file closed. Bring on the 'donuts'!

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Boffin

Re: @h3 ... OOPS!

Clearly you've never gone in to a Fleet Farm or maybe the seed and feed.

(Yes, I have).

Again, try buying Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer and you will see how much things have changed over the years.

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Mushroom

Re: @Mad Mike OOPS!

"I don't think anyone is saying the school should do nothing. Just that sending in the stormtroopers is completely disproportionate."

While I don't know much about the American judicial system, I would argue that the school acted responsibly. They were unsure what action they SHOULD have taken, so asked the local authority (police) how to proceed. Once that happened, any consequences are squarely on the shoulders of the police. As soon as the school were informed of the formal charges, they acted responsibly too. If they had allowed her to stay in school, the rest of the students would see that as license to act just as (potentially) dangerously.

In point of fact, had that bottle top skewed off to the side, she could very easily have blinded someone. Would that constitute a punishable offence?

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T J

Re: OOPS!

You're a dickhead.

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Bronze badge

Re: OOPS!

The sad turn of affairs was in the wind long before 9/11. Read Clockwork Orange for starters. I used to resent it that my dad had stories of stunts he pulled that either got an honorable mention or a note to his dad and appointment with a belt or some other unpleasant consequence. He had a lot of kids books (boys book) that dated back to well before WWII - some to near WWI - and the stuff that went on in those stories would had HIM in serious trouble. Later when my son was in school, it was clear that he felt similarly. Things that might have gotten me chewed out by the teacher would have had him suspended and required a conference between the principal and parents. That actually did happen to me, but only twice.

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