Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old Irving, Texas high school freshman with a passion for mechanical engineering and robotics, wanted to show off his skills to the teachers at his new school. He decided to start by building something simple: a homemade digital clock.
Dallas Morning News writer Avi Selk described the device as “a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display, all strapped inside a [pencil] case with a tiger hologram on the front.” In the above-embedded video, Mohamed points out examples of some of the components that he used to make the clock.
However, when he took his creation to MacArthur High School on Monday, the engineering teacher to whom Mohamed excitedly showed his invention failed to encourage the student to continue pursuing his ambitions and instead warned him not to let any other teachers see the clock.
Later in the school day, the clock’s alarm sounded during English class and Mohamed’s teacher asked to see it. Though Mohamed clarified that the device is a digital clock, his English teacher felt that it looked like a bomb.
Mohamed was then pulled from class and taken to a room with the school’s principal and several Irving police officers. He claims that, as he entered the room, one officer said, “Yup. That’s who I thought it was.”
Mohamed was interrogated and continued to maintain that the device is a clock. MacArthur High principal Dan Cummings reportedly said that he felt that the device looked like a bomb from the movies, and suspended the boy for three days as police handcuffed him and took him to a juvenile detention center on suspicion of a Class A misdemeanor charge of possession of a hoax bomb.
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
School officials did not contact the boy’s parents. His father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, who according to CNN is a Sudanese immigrant and a former two-time candidate for that country’s presidency, only found out about the controversy after police called him to inform him of his son’s arrest. He said, “My son said over and over that this was an alarm clock and my son only brought it to school to ask for help from his teachers, to show that he can do this amazing thing and maybe get appreciation and to show him (he can become) something bigger in the world — an inventor.”
The Dallas morning news released a video, seen below, in which Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd can be seen addressing reporters and announcing that the misdemeanor charge against Mohamed has been dropped due to there being “no evidence to support the perception that he intended to create alarm” by showing teachers his “homemade experiment.” Police officials say that Mohamed had been taken into custody, not on the basis of his ethnicity, but because he did not offer a better explanation as to what the device was beyond simply stating that it was a clock. However, police did not explain what that better explanation should have entailed.
Irving Independent School District’s statement to parents about the incident did not include an apology to Mohamed and his family and instead stressed the importance of teaching children to report “suspicious behavior.”
Council on American-Islamic Relations representative Alia Salem told WFAA-TV, “I think this wouldn’t even be a question if his name wasn’t Ahmed Mohamed. He is an excited kid who is very bright and wants to share it with his teachers.”
News of Mohamed’s ordeal went viral on social media on Tuesday, with over 100,000 tweets by supporters appearing under the emerging hashtag “#IStandWithAhmed.” U.S. President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were among those who issued tweets in support of Mohamed under the hashtag.
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.
— President Obama (@POTUS44) September 16, 2015
Assumptions and fear don't keep us safe—they hold us back. Ahmed, stay curious and keep building. https://t.co/ywrlHUw3g1
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 16, 2015
“It was the first time I brought an invention to school to show a teacher,” said Mohamed.