The hashtag #IStandWithAhmed took over social media last week after an incident at a Metroplex high school made national attention.
Irving teenager Ahmed Mohamed, 14, was escorted out of his high school in handcuffs after bringing a clock he had made to school. The Irving Police Department pursued charges to Mohamed — a lifelong American — of bringing a hoax bomb to school, despite acknowledging that he never represented it as a bomb.
The specific statute, contained with Section 46.08 of the Texas penal code, reads as follows:
“A person commits an offense if the person knowingly manufactures, sells, purchases, transports or possesses a hoax bomb with intent to use the hoax bomb to 1) Make another believe that the hoax bomb is an explosive or incendiary devices; or 2) cause alarm or reaction of any type by an official of a public safety agency or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies.”
Mohamed never claimed his clock was a bomb. The police even corroborated this story.
“We have no information that he claimed it was a bomb,” Irving police spokesman James McLellan told the Dallas Morning News, seemingly in direct contrast to the department’s intentions. “He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation. The concern was, what was this thing built for? Do we take him into custody?”
Irving MacArthur High School certainly has a right and responsibility to keep their students safe. This does need to be understood in the context of this case. But unfortunately, the facts point to breakdowns at several points along the chain that led to an innocent kid being treated like a criminal.
Mohamed originally brought the clock to impress his engineering teacher with his knowledge of technology. The student was involved heavily in robotics in middle school and said he hoped to go to MIT some day. He simply took a circuit board, hooked it up to some wires and connected it to a display and put it in a case. The clock was the size of a pencil box.
When the clock started beeping in his English class, his teacher took it up and called the police. Mohamed was led out of his sixth period class by a police officer and the principal before being interrogated by five officers. For the “protection of the officers and himself,” he was taken from the building in handcuffs in front of the school.
At certain points, Mohamed asked for his parents and a lawyer. The police denied both requests. Under the Patriot Act, they have license to do so. This is true even when it comes to 14-year-old children. It’s hard to say that would have happened had his name been Johnny.
The English teacher had every right to take up the device and examine it. She even could have sent it to the principal’s office, despite having definitive evidence it was not a bomb. The overreaction came in the aftermath.
Despite acknowledging it’s not a bomb and that it was never portrayed as a bomb, breaking the specific wording of the statute of the Texas penal code, the police decided to arrest him anyway.
By taking a moment and surveying the situation rather than being reactionary to a kid named “Ahmed,” the Irving Police could have both kept the school safe and not incited national outrage.