If you haven’t heard the case of Kiera Wilmot of Bartow, Florida, then get familiar. She’s a teen with good grades and no prior behavior problems who messed up a science experiment and got charged with a felony.
As I get older, sadly, few things inspire me to write in for change. It could be that, as the world evolves, there are more instances of ridiculous behavior and of sad people trying to hold on to injustices to others so they may keep their perceived safe space. It could also be because sometimes you write and you never hear…things go into the ether. I’ve written ridiculous politicians and educators plenty of times with no word and that’s mostly fine since I’m usually calling them out on something.
This Kiera Wilmot story though, moved me in a way that I haven’t been moved since maybe last year with Trayvon Martin, perhaps more so. Kiera could have been me at that age. I got good grades, had no prior behavior problems and was pretty clumsy when it came to science. I had the best science teacher in the world, Mr. Ishakis, who believed we all had the ability to cure cancer if we tried. Imagining him punishing me for trying something is beyond comprehension. I could have been Kiera though.
So I wrote whomever I could about this little girl that I don’t know. I do what most do, scour the internet for contact information. Because most articles don’t have specific details, I collected contact information for almost anyone of authority in Bartow, FL - police, sheriff, state’s attorney, principle, you name it.
Here was my email:
To Whom It May Concerned,
With regard to the Kiera Wilmot case, I sincerely hope that you plan to drop the charges against this girl - a girl with good grades and no behavior problems - for a science experiment gone wrong. Your actions have now set this girl on a course from which few ever recover from. Her bright future is now tarnished because of the decision you’ve made to charge her with something from which few recover from…there was no malice, no injuries and no damage. Was there no other recourse but to charge her with a crime? Is it impossible to think that there may be another course of action suitable for a CHILD? Could you not have suspended her for the possible danger and then welcomed her back so she could go on to achieve any success she may be destined for? Are there no other criminals in this county that deserve your attention other than this child?? This case is making news across the country and I hope this forces you to reexamine whatever excessive disciplinary action you’ve deemed appropriate in this time.
T. Tara Turk
I clicked send and tried to think of something else I could do to help this girl, whom I imagined in juvenile hall, scared and worried about her future since she’s being expelled from school. Just as I almost walked away from my computer, here’s the response I got from Donna Wood, Public Information Officer for the Sheriff’s Department:
Had you, or any of the individuals who have been littering the Polk County Sheriff’s Office PIO inbox bothered to research this case, even superficially, they would have discovered the investigation and arrest was conducted by the Bartow Police Department – not our agency. It’s not our case. The suspect is not in our custody.
Please contact the Bartow Police Department for any further comments or complaints about this case.
Donna C. Wood, MSM, CPM
Public Information Officer
Polk County Sheriff’s Office
At first, all I saw was the word “litter” and I saw red. She must be mad or off her rocker. What public official uses the world litter to someone who pays taxes and writes them to express themselves? Then I read the email and realized that she clearly handled this the wrong way. Though their office is not involved, she responded to me in a way that says she doesn’t think her replies out to the public. But she works for the public. Are people in her county used to hearing that kind of tone? Having worked in customer service most of my life, I know tone and word phrasing is everything. Never would I think to tell someone that they are littering my inbox by emailing about something that bothered them, even if it didn’t apply to me. You see, I have answered general lines for a major magazine. I have talked to people who think they are Halle Berry’s parents and have sent hair samples to prove it. I have talked to people who want to sue a publication because of a documentary where they are shown kidnapping someone, simply because we reviewed the documentary. None of those people ever heard me utter the word “litter.”
This was my response to Donna (I was raised to use Mr. and Miss for people but I can’t do it this time):
Apologies if this has reached you in error. We don’t consider it littering when we are trying to find the right agency to reach out to. And perhaps this email will reach someone who can actually help. You are an agency so there for we appeal to you. Littering may not be the right word to use but thank you for your reply. I have sent an email to that agency as well as the State’s Attorney. As a tax payer, I feel as though I have a reach out to you directly. Good day.
You see, I had to remind her that we don’t know each other and I am a tax payer. I had to remind her that she is there to help. How come I had to do that? I understand she in inundated with emails about this subject, as she should be because it’s ridiculous, but she lost the focus of the point. It is about Kiera. It is about directing information the best way you can. If it’s not about that, then it’s definitely not about littering inboxes.
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