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Irving Ninth Grader Handcuffed, Suspended For Bringing A Homemade Clock To School

What Ahmed Mohamed’s case tells us about the American dream.

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Inventors are tinkerers. They build things without obvious utility, they take things apart and put them back together, they make things just to see if it’s possible to make them, and they show off their latest creations to the people around them. All of the most impressive things in our world—computers, smart phones, television, telephones—are the result of people who liked to mess around with things.

Ahmed Mohamed might turn out to be a great inventor, or he might not. It’s hard to say, because he’s only fourteen years old. But he did build himself a simple, homemade electronic clock that fit inside of his pencil case, consisting of a circuit board with wires that led to a digital display. And he promptly found himself in handcuffs for it.

Not only did his school call the police because they thought that his clock looked like a bomb—despite the fact that, according to everyone involved, Ahmed made very clear to everyone that he showed his creation to that it was a clock—but even after the police got involved, and any confusion that school officials might have experienced was cleared up, he was still suspended for three days. For building a clock and bringing it to school.

As the Dallas Morning News reports, police—who even after Ahmed’s device was proven to be a clock without any dangerous elements whatsoever—told the paper they were still considering charging him with making a “hoax bomb,” and seemed exceedingly suspicious of the boy’s motives.

Ahmed never claimed his device was anything but a clock, said police spokesman James McLellan. And police have no reason to think it was dangerous. But officers still didn’t believe Ahmed was giving them the whole story.

“We have no information that he claimed it was a bomb,” McLellan said. “He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.”

Asked what broader explanation the boy could have given, the spokesman explained:

“It could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car. The concern was, what was this thing built for? Do we take him into custody?”

Indeed, if Ahmed had left his clock in a bathroom or under a car, and there had been some demonstrable intent that he intended to frighten people into thinking it was a bomb, those would be questions worth asking. But the clock, by Ahmed’s account and the account of the engineering teacher he showed it to, was built for the same reason inventors all over the world have built many things—just to do it.

The Morning News reported that Ahmed’s engineering teacher was impressed with his ingenuity—but also told him to keep the creation from the other teachers. When it beeped in his bag during English class, the teacher insisted that it “looks like a bomb.” By sixth period, the boy was in custody.

It’s hard to talk about the situation without addressing the way that Irving and many other North Texas suburbs have cast Muslims. Mayor Beth Van Duyne was dubbed the #IrvingIronLady—a reference to Margaret Thatcher—after she spoke out in favor of HB 562, a bill that would have prevented the application of “foreign laws” in Texas. That move was widely considered a response to the voluntary Islamic tribunal in Irving that mediates civil disputes between members of the Muslim community if all parties agree.

Irving shares the Dallas-Forth Worth Metroplex with Garland, where a “Draw Muhammad” contest in May became the scene of violence after shooters from out of state attacked the event (both were killed). It’s part of the same region as Dallas, where in March an Iraqi man was murdered outside of his apartment complex while photographing snow. It’s not too far from Farmersville, where residents threatened to pour pig’s blood on a proposed Muslim cemetery this summer. And none of this is new. In 2011, in neighboring Arlington, the playground at a local mosque was burned as part of a hate crime.

That context is an important part Ahmed’s story. North Texas is a microcosm of a problem that extends across Texas and the U.S.—that Muslims are frequently subject to threats, violence, and humiliation.

Authorities in North Texas have yet to apologize to Ahmed, his family, or the broader community. At a press conference on Wednesday morning, Irving ISD officials declined to take questions, while an Irving PD spokesman explained that this is “an age where you can’t take things like that to school” and justified handcuffing the boy by claiming they had to do it to ensure that he didn’t jump out of the police car. (He did clarify that the department wouldn’t be pursuing hoax charges against Ahmed.)

According to the Dallas Morning News, Ahmed vowed “never to take an invention to school again” after the incident—which is a real failure on the part of the educational system responsible for helping develop the talents and skills of this young man. Fortunately, others have taken an interest in Ahmed’s creative mind: Engineers at Google have invited him to see its Los Angeles facility, and NASA asked him to come check out the Mars rovers.

Ultimately, though, Ahmed’s case raises the very real questions about who we are and what we value. We idolize the American inventors who have kept this country relevant and important around the world. We’re a few weeks away from a movie lionizing Steve Jobs, and the national obsession with Elon Musk and his space program/cars/whatever-he-comes-up-with-next continues unabated. We wring our hands that we don’t have the engineers and creative thinkers coming up in this country to compete with those who are developing in other parts of the world. And yet a deep fear of children with names like Ahmed Mohamad means that when the creative thinkers among us don’t look like Musk or Jobs, they’re more likely to be punished for their inventions than celebrated.

That’s shameful. And until we can all recognize everyone among us as the bold, creative, American minds of the future, we’re at risk of losing much of what makes us great.

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  • justagramma

    If this kid has NO history of pushing against the school rules, no “attitude”, no parental prickliness about religious issues, then the school over reacted, but if they had been challenged by the boy or parents about petty religious issues, then they were doing what should be done to properly protect other students. IF it HAD been a bomb, you’d be saying the school had signs there were problems, the engineering teacher even told him to conceal it, the school knew about prior comments and issues. We do not know the WHOLE story. Until you can report on any, or NO prior issues, it is irresponsible to carry on with these conjectures, and blame a whole region.

    • jmcsweeney

      So you are still suspicious of this kid because you have fabricated possible past issues? What is your fantasy of what he has done in the past?

      • justagramma

        There IS a picture of it. I see no face on it. It is in a case larger than the mechanism . Texas Monthly did not include a picture of it, but it is out there. Why? Did they just want to jump out with their critique before all the facts were out? Or did they intentionally omit the photo? His engineering teacher told him not to show it around. Why would he say that. (I heard that from the boys own mouth) Experienced bomb detonators say it’s design of the timer is similar to real bombs. So you are opposed to the appeal to “see something. say something’? Or just a knee jerk, jerk? As a retired teacher, I learned who to trust and who not to trust. I do not recall a single Muslim student I did not trust. But I had many I did not trust. That is why I said “if”. Do you know the meaning of “IF”?

        • jammerjim

          Maybe the teacher told him not to show it around because they suspected someone would be an idiot. Guess they were right.

          • justagramma

            In spite is teacher’s admonition, he did it anyway. Maybe he should respect the opinions of his favorite teacher a little more. I see you are married to your opinion and have little experience with teenagers, other than thinking like one.

          • jammerjim

            If you had read the news reports you would know that he did not “show it off” to the other teachers, but rather the alarm it had went off, so he had to let them see what was making the noise. As in, they said what is that, show me.

            Speaking of being “married to one’s opinion”…ahem. You’re just dieing to find out this kid was late to class once and had to write lines or something.

          • justagramma

            Again, against good advice from one teacher, he took it to another class. I am quite sure the teacher told him WHY not to take it to another class. Kids that age will ask why, and as teachers, we answer. He installed the alarm, and knew it would go off. He “invented” it didn’t he? I believe there is more to this story, because 68 years of experience working with kids, to this day, tells me so.

          • jammerjim

            He may not have know the alarm got turned on. Buttons can get pressed in a backpack or via shifting around in whatever he was carrying it in. And while I do not know for sure about Irving, many schools these days don’t have lockers (my son’s did not). He may have no choice but to carry it around all day. Speaking of things we don’t know the whole story on….

          • justagramma

            I can’t tell you how many kids asked me if they could leave something in my room because it didn’t fit in their locker. What better place for that device to be stored than in the science room? What use was that alarm? The more I debate with you the more I think he may well be a passive aggressive little sneak. Kids with aggressively autocratic fathers are often angry and powerless. To assert themselves, they are often sneaky. They are the ones who pull this kind thing, and absolutely are horrified when they are caught. Because they are more fearful of the parent than the school, they never break and confess. Nothing adds up.

          • jammerjim

            Yes, because some kids asked if they could leave something in your room, all kids everywhere will do that all the time for everything. And all teachers everywhere will let them, I guess. Do you even read the stuff you type?

            “Nothing adds up” because every time someone points out where you are either wrong on the facts, or how your speculations have alternatives, you just chuck out some other random hunk of speculation, whether it fits in with the known facts or even anything else you’ve suggested before. For a person who first argued we should wait and see if there is more to the story, you’ve done nothing but spout speculation after speculation, ending up in this last post where, based on absolutely nothing, you have decided the kid is a passive aggressive sneak (a sneak, by the way, who SHOWED A TEACHER his creation) with an abusive father.

          • Sky Mirror

            How does your interaction with another poster change the story of what really happened? “The more I debate with you the more I think he may well be a passive aggressive little sneak”??? How does what anybody else say and how you react to it change facts? I think you are just getting your panties more and more into a wad and as your face turns purple the kid becomes more and more guilty in your mind.

          • Jed

            guh. you’re a teacher?

          • mikel

            Perhaps you need to read the article a little more closely. He didn’t show the clock to anyone else. It bleeped and the English teacher demanded to see it…

          • SciLaw

            Well, here’s one of “justagramma” prior posts. Not too hard to figure out her bias…

            “Muslims do not coexist well with anyone else. They need to be contained in their homelands. The only refugees we should take are the the Christians/Yazidis/Jews. Their values are not as centered on killing. For Muslims, killing people is the solution to all conflict.”–justagramma

        • Doesn’t matter if there was a face on it or not, or that a layperson could identify what the device was, because that is irrelevant. If anyone honestly believed it was an explosive why wasn’t the school evacuated? Why did they wait so long to call the police? Why weren’t the police notified it was a bomb so the bomb squad could be dispatched? Why would they sit there with the kid in the office with the clock if they thought it was a bomb?

          Hmm? Can anyone answer that question logically and rationally?

    • space2k

      A new level of stupidity. I’m sure you or some other Breitbarter will “do some research” and try to smear this child and his family. Have fun living your awful life.

    • Jed

      oh good. i was afraid i’d come here and not see any racist responses. you’ve put my mind at ease, texas is still texas.

      • justagramma

        NOTHING I said had anything to do with race. YOU are the one talking about race. You have no idea what race I am. YOU are the racist monger.

        • Jed

          “no parental prickliness about religious issues, then the school over reacted, but if they had been challenged by the boy or parents about petty religious issues,”

          do you refer to your fellow white christians as “prickly” and “petty” about religion?

          • SciLaw

            Boom!!! Exactly. It’s like gramma didn’t even read the articles. She talks about past history at the school and prior religious issues. He was a NEW student so there is no past history.

    • DallasDude71

      The actions of both the police and the teachers show that none of them ever thought for even a single millisecond that this could be in any way a bomb. Nobody evacuated the school. Nobody called the bomb squad. It’s a clock. He says it’s a clock to everybody. Never tried to hide it. He was proud of his tinkering and wanted to show it to his teacher (the first one who didn’t throw a weird hissy, which, if there was a history like you’ve made up, would likely have alerted this teacher to take more drastic action than ‘don’t show it to any other teacher’).

      Even the police show up, allegedly violate his Constitutional rights, and then say that he always said it was a clock. They arrest him and consider charging him because their small minds can’t fathom the idea that someone would just build something to see if they could do it (and would then be proud of it). My daughter has ideas for inventions all the time. I’d hate to see her discouraged from doing something productive because other people lack any kind of imagination beyond thinking to themselves “I don’t understand this so I must put a stop to it!’

      • justagramma

        A timer in a box is not an invention, it is a replica. When I was a kid, I put together a crystal radio set, a telegraph, and a guitar out of a wooden cigar box. They were not “inventions”

        • DallasDude71

          It was more an invention than it was a bomb.

        • Asher B. Garber

          I think you just invented a childhood to pass along as your own.

          Nothing about your comments makes me think you’re somebody with good nature curiosity.

        • Dr. Michael

          We now know the entire “clock” was simply removed from the case it was purchased in and moved into the briefcase to be passed off as his own. Unfortunately, he failed to remove the serial numbers and origin country notice stamped in the metal of the mechanisms.

  • scottrob

    If the school really thought it was a bomb, then they should have evacuated the school and called the bomb squad. They didn’t do that. They didn’t take care of the stated, perceived problem. They procedurally, administratively assaulted a child.

  • jammerjim

    While I have seen more than enough abject follow-the-rules-no-tolerance stupidity from school administrators to think that this kid might have gotten into just as much trouble if he were a white Christian as opposed to a brown-skinned Muslim, it looks just awful.

    • Jed

      follow the rules against clocks?

      • jammerjim

        Well, you know. Can;t be too careful. Clocks could lead to dancing. It’s that beat: tic toc tic toc tic toc.

  • biff

    Build a nuclear reactor and have nothing happen to you. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hahn

    Build an alarm clock, get arrested and handcuffed.

    • Doug

      Make a pistol out of a Pop Tart and get expelled…what’s your point?

  • oblate spheroid

    Good thing we have the tea party to protect us from curious 9th graders.

  • MDER

    Just like I had to sit in cuffs at a clients house (I’m a contractor) because I set their alarm off. I had documented communications between my customer and myself asking me to be there on that date to work on their shower as well as stating where the key was. I had texts between the homeowner and myself, showung where I had notified them if the alarm going off, then sending me the alarm code and password. I was in the shower vacuuming my mess when the police arrived 45 minutes later. I had Id and business cards. This happens all the time, and it’s the first time I’ve been cuffed. The whole thing was a joke. As if I would break into a house to clean!

  • borgerboy

    And if, in fact, this had been an explosive devise and the school had taken no action were would the blame lie?

    • If there was any question, any doubt, or real suspicion, in anyone in authority’s mind that it could have been an explosive device then, WHY. DID. THEY. NOT. EVACUATE. THE. SCHOOL?

  • justagramma

    The school is bound by law not to discuss this kid at all, because he is a minor. The police cannot discuss him either. The parents can claim anything and so can friends. We hear from father, but no friends are coming to his defense, only strangers who know nothing. Kids and adults who might know negative things about him will keep mum because it could be dangerous to stick your neck out. We do know this is not an “INVENTION” any more than my crystal radio set I put together, or the telegraph I constructed, or the guitar I make out of a cigar box were inventions. He took digital clock innards, cut a rectangle in a case stuck the digital display in the opening. Not exactly the product a prodigy would be so proud of.

    • Asher B. Garber

      Keep digging that hole, Gramma. You should change your moniker to justadick to be more accurate.

      • justagramma

        Are you keeping up with the trickle of news on this story? Or did you just read this one article? Truth is out.

        • Asher B. Garber

          It’s like a piss down the leg, Granny. All Texas has shown the world is how guano crazed paranoid our state happens to be.

          • justagramma

            I see it escapes you that people are leaving their dysfunctional states in droves to come to Texas. Are all the Muslims who are coming here into masochism? All the Mexican immigrants? The only diversity we dislike is Progressives moving here. We need a wall around Austin, not with Mex. border.

          • Asher B. Garber

            I believe that crazy people like you should just kill themselves, if you want to know the truth.

          • justagramma

            Get in touch with YOUR ethnic roots. Go to Israel, enlist in their military, serve something better than you are. You need meaning in your life. You say you are not particularly religious, but I think it bothers you. Your soul is empty. Only you can fill it.

          • Asher B. Garber

            Those are some inspirational words from somebody who supported the arrest of a 14 year old for bringing a clock to school.

          • justagramma

            Update: The kid had a thick file of discipline problems: Interrupting the teachers in class, talking out non-stop, rigging a remote to shut off projector while teacher was lecturing, horseplay in the restroom, and on and on. I told you he had a history. So, I say again, he is a sneaky passive aggressive little mutt, who has a domineering father. He is not an enemy yet, but he is being raised to be ungrateful for the shelter he and his family were given here in this country. They need to be grateful or go home.

          • Asher B. Garber

            Either you need attention, or your diaper is on too tight. Here’s an idea…. Take that diaper off your head. Now drown yourself in the toilet.

            Let me know how that works for you.

          • justagramma

            Can’t admit you’re wrong. Just like a typical Dem. You were a bad kid in school, and have not grown out of it. Doubt you can keep a job either.

          • Asher B. Garber

            So I’m no longer welcome to bang that long lost niece and join the family reunion? I bought extra white sheets and everything.

    • Daryl Strait

      “The parents can claim anything”. What motives does Dad have to make up anything? And who is made to feel more in danger when “sticking their neck out”: a freshmen whose name is “Ahmed” being dragged in front of his new high school, physically and virtually, and linked to “bomb”-making OR any or every kid in that school with access to social media (i.e ALL OF THEM) merely typing out suspicions about his character?

  • Marvelette


    What more needs to be said?

  • Gouchybear

    Why is it that a student who eats a Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun gets suspended (https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=student+suspended+for+eating+pop+tart+into+shape+of+gun). But someone who makes an alarm clock (and it’s dubious he “made” this at all. It looks more like he took apart an alarm clock, but that is just mho) that is capable of detonating a bomb (by using the alarm circuit), takes it to school and gets busted gets invited to the White House?