Fourteen-year-old Ahmed Mohamed just wanted to get noticed by his teachers.
Instead, he got arrested.
In an incident that has raised allegations of racism and made a Texas school district the target of online outrage, the ninth grader was pulled out of school in handcuffs after a digital clock he built himself was mistaken for a bomb.
Mohamed, a self-assured kid with thick-framed glasses and a serious expression, had just started at MacArthur High School a few weeks ago. The Irving, Tex., ninth grader has a talent for tinkering — he constructs his own radios and once built a Bluetooth speaker as a gift for his friend — and he wanted to show his new teachers what he could do. So on Sunday night, he quickly put together a homemade digital clock (“just something small,” as he casually put it to the Dallas Morning News: a circuit board and power supply connected to a digital display) and proudly offered it to his engineering teacher the next day.
But the teacher looked wary.
“He was like, ‘That’s really nice,’” Mohamed told the Dallas Morning News. “‘I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’”
During English class, the clock beeped, annoying his teacher. When he brought the device up to her afterward, she told him “it looks like a bomb,” according to Mohamed.
“I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me,’” he told the Dallas Morning News.
But the English teacher kept the clock, and during sixth period, Mohamed was pulled out of class by the principal.
“They took me to a room filled with five officers in which they interrogated me and searched through my stuff and took my tablet and my invention,” the teen said. “They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’ I told them no, I was trying to make a clock.”
But his questioner responded, “It looks like a movie bomb to me.”
Mohamed told NBC-Dallas Fort Worth that he was taken to police headquarters, handcuffed and fingerprinted.
In summary, a 14-year-old made a clock. He never said it was anything but a clock. He was racially profiled and ultimately arrested on no grounds whatsoever. Surely the school is apologetic, right?
Mohamed’s family said that the teen has been suspended from school for three days.
If you’re looking to the reprehensible, self-congratulatory letter the school sent out to provide any serious explanation for why someone who was entirely innocent of anything was suspended after being arrested, you’re out of luck.