IRVING, TX—On Monday, September 13, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested after bringing a homemade clock to school, which was perceived to be a threat by one of his teachers.
Mohamed, a 9th grader at MacArthur High School, brought the digital clock, made out of a pencil case, to show to his engineering teacher. The teacher complimented him on his efforts, but advised him to not let anyone else at school see it. The teenager kept the clock in his backpack, but during an English class, it made a disruptive beep, prompting him to turn the device over to the teacher.
The teacher confiscated the clock and sent Mohamed to the principal’s office, where he was questioned for an hour and a half by a group of five police officers. During his interrogation, Mohamed was not given permission to contact his parents. He was repeatedly asked if the device that he made was a bomb, to which he responded “It’s a clock.” The officers reportedly said that Mohamed would not give a “reasonable answer” to the question of what he was doing with the clock and why he brought it to school.
The officers arrested Mohamed under the Class A misdemeanor charge that he had made a hoax bomb. He was handcuffed and taken to a juvenile detention center. A press release from the Irving Police Department states: “Under Texas law, a person is guilty of possessing a hoax bomb if he posses a device that is intended to cause anyone to be alarmed or a reaction of any type by law enforcement officers.” He was released to his parents later that day, and was suspended from school until Thursday. By Wednesday, it was determined that no charges would be pressed against Mohamed.
Mohamed’s story was originally published in the Dallas Morning News, and it gained traction on social media after a photo of him in handcuffs was posted to Twitter. The hashtag #IStandWithAhmed became the number one trending topic.
In an interview with CNN, Mohamed said, “I felt like I was a criminal. I felt like I was a terrorist.” Mohamed is Muslim, and his family is from Sudan, where his father ran for president twice. Many of Mohamed’s supporters have decried his arrest as an act stemming from anti-Muslim bias and racism, while some believe the incident was a result of harsh zero-tolerance policies, which are common in schools across the nation. Irving Police Department Chief Larry Boyd said in a press conference that religion was not a factor in the arrest, and that his department has an “outstanding relationship with the Muslim community.”
The attention that Mohamed has received has lead to an invitation to the White House from President Obama, who tweeted on Wednesday, “Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.” He also also received offers to visit MIT and Facebook, and to intern at Twitter and Reddit. Mohamed’s father announced Friday that his son will be transferring to another school.