A 14-year-old Texas high school student was arrested Monday after bringing a homemade clock to school that teachers and administrators thought looked like a hoax bomb, The Dallas Morning News first reported on Tuesday.
Ahmed Mohamed, who is quite the tinkerer, building his own radios and go-karts in his spare time, had belonged to the robotics club in middle school and was hoping to continue with that as a freshman at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas. He decided to build a basic clock at home Sunday night, which consisted of a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display inside a case with a tiger hologram on the front, according to The Dallas Morning News.
When Mohamed brought the clock into school on Monday, his engineering teacher advised him to not show it to other teachers, but after Mohamed was forced to show his English teacher the clock when it beeped during class, she said "it looks like a bomb" and confiscated the clock. Soon after, the principal of the school and five police officers questioned Mohamed about the clock, also saying it resembled a bomb, and searched his belongings.
Mohamed told The Dallas Morning News that the principal also threatened to expel him if he didn't make a written statement. All the while, Mohamed maintained that the device was a clock, which the police acknowledge but thought he needed to give "broader explanation" about what his intentions were.
"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," police spokesman James McLellan told The Dallas Morning News.
Mohamed was then handcuffed and taken to a juvenile detention center. He was never put in a jail cell and was released to his parents after the police took his fingerprints.
I expect they will have more to say tomorrow, but Ahmed's sister asked me to share this photo. A NASA shirt! pic.twitter.com/nR4gt992gB
— Anil Dash (@anildash) September 16, 2015
"He just wants to invent good things for mankind," Mohamed's father Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed told The Dallas Morning News. "But because his name is Mohamed and because of Sept. 11, I think my son got mistreated."
Mohamed, who is Muslim, also recalled feeling concious of his brown skin and last name when he was being questioned by the police. The North Texas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is currently investigating the matter. Mohamed also tweeted from his recently launched Twitter account that he is meeting with an attorney Wednesday.
Going to meet my lawyer. pic.twitter.com/YCxOOeOz3Z — Ahmed Mohamed (@IStandWithAhmed) September 16, 2015
Earlier this year, the Irving City Council came under fire for a law that some say unfairly targeted Muslims.
On Tuesday, MacArthur High School Principal Daniel Cummings sent a letter to parents and guardians about the incident.
"While we do not have any threats to our school community, we want you to be aware that the Irving Police Department responded to a suspicious-looking item on campus yesterday," Cummings wrote in the letter. "We are pleased to report that after the police department's assessment, the item discovered at school did not pose a threat to your child's safety."
The letter went on to remind parents and guardians to speak with their children about not bringing items to school that are prohibited by the Student Code of Conduct and the importance of reporting suspicious items or behavior to a school employee.
Since the original report by The Dallas Morning News was published Tuesday, there has been an outpouring of support for Mohamed on social media, from software engineers to Questlove to Hillary Clinton. Mohamed expressed his thanks from his Twitter account.
So will Mohamed keep tinkering? It appears so, but he has vowed to never bring an invention to school again.
Photo: Daniel Oldfield | Flickr