They handcuffed the kid.

I for one remember being 14 years old: I spent it overwhelmed. In junior high (7th and 8th grades in my school district at the time), my general proficiency at the whole learning thing bit me where it hurt the most: my ego. My success in 7th grade placed me in advanced classes the next school year that even carried the letter “X” in their name to signify their specialness. “English 8X,” and such.

It overwhelmed me. “Math 8X” was algebra delivered one year early and some geometry offered up two years early, and I nearly flunked. I liked my side projects too much: I wrote all the time, more than was expected or required in my English class by my English teacher, because that is what a 14-year-old who likes a certain subject in school does. I would bring my extra work into class to show my teacher because I could not not think about Math and Science enough that year. My teacher was bright enough to let me read my work in front of class to help me along, because I suspect she knew that my fragile ego needed to know that there indeed were things I could do well.

So I understand Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old at MacArthur High School, near Dallas, Texas. He is the opposite of me: he loves science and engineering and devotes whatever extra time he has to tinkering and building things. On Monday, he brought in to school something he had thrown together in 20 minutes: a clock. He was arrested, led out of school in handcuffs by five police officers, and given a three-day suspension, which he is still serving. He was spared spending any time in jail, but he was fingerprinted and locked up in the Irving juvenile detention center. Here is the moment of his arrest (please notice the NASA t-shirt):

According to the Dallas Morning News, Ahmed showed the clock to his favorite teacher upon arriving at his high school. The teacher told him to not show it off, which confused the student. When the alarm went off during the afternoon, because clock, Ahmed was asked to stop it and he voluntarily showed it to the teacher after that class. That teacher decided for herself what she thought it might be: a bomb.

“She was like, ‘It looks like a bomb,’ Ahmed said.  
“I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me.'”

The teacher kept the clock, which remains with the Irving, Texas, Police Department as “evidence.”

Later, the school principal, accompanied with a police officer, showed up at his next classroom, which is an image that brings fear even to my heart, and Ahmed was brought to the principal’s office. Four police officers were waiting there to speak with him.

And there he heard the one sentence that reveals all: “They led Ahmed into a room where four other police officers waited. He said an officer he’d never seen before leaned back in his chair and remarked: ‘Yup. That’s who I thought it was.'”

“That’s who I thought it was.” As you can see from the photo, Ahmed is brown-skinned, and as you might surmise from his name, Ahmed Mohammad’s family is Moslem.

Ahmed continues: “They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’ I told them no, ‘I was trying to make a clock.’ He said, ‘It looks like a movie bomb to me.'”

The police department officially stands by its first surmise of “bomb,” and it remains skeptical of Ahmed’s intentions. According to the Morning News: “Officers still don’t believe Ahmed was giving them the whole story. ‘We have no information that he claimed it was a bomb,’ a police spokesman said. ‘He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.’ Police say they may yet charge him with making a hoax bomb—though they acknowledge he told everyone who would listen that it is merely a clock.”

(“Broader explanation?” Um, yeah, “clock” covers it.)

“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?'”

A letter sent yesterday from the school district helps muddy the matter enough to encourage parents to look at Ahmed and his family with just little bit more uncomfortable and unwarranted scrutiny and suspicion than they possibly face every day anyway:

While we do not have [emphasis theirs] 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. 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.

I recommend using this opportunity to talk with your child about the Student Code of Conduct and specifically not bringing items to school that are prohibited.

The letter does not mention that clocks are not prohibited by the district. Nor are clock-resembling items. It goes on, “Also, this is a good time to remind your child how important it is to immediately report any suspicious items and/or suspicious behavior they observe to any school employee so we can address it right away.” Report? Ahmed voluntarily showed the clock himself twice to two teachers.

If I am Ahmed’s family, I am taking my child to a new district. And if my (not-yet-existent) child, Mark Aldrich, Jr., was a student there and I received this letter, I would take my child, my non-Moslem child, out of there, too.

Because this is what the letter should have said: “An incident that was not an incident and should not have left our halls took place Monday, when one of our well-meaning instructors thought that a pupil’s extra-curricular project—a clock—that the pupil brought into our high school was not a clock. Our instructor insisted that we notify the authorities. The object did not in itself appear to be suspicious, as it looked like a clock made by a 14-year-old with an interest in electronics. Further, the pupil voluntarily showed his work to his teachers, with pride in his facility at building things. He apologized for its alarm going off in class and agreed he should serve one class section in detention for that. We reassured the instructor that we have seen clocks made by 14-year-olds before, and this was a fine example. We urge you to encourage your children to build things, especially for the upcoming Science Fair.”

If “Mark Aldrich, Jr.” was the name of the student who built the clock, my fictional letter is the one that would have been sent out.

Anil Dash, a writer and entrepreneur who helps app creators publicize their creations, has been in the lead of spreading the word about this story (he has been in touch with the family and his account tweeted the photo of the arrest) and he created a Google File for people to use and make suggestions for other things Ahmed (and other young, aspiring inventors) can make: Help Ahmed Make! This turns the story in to a positive one:

I agree. “Teachers shouldn’t respond to inventive kids by calling the cops.”

A Twitter account that Mr. Dash verifies as one Ahmed’s family set up last night sent out this message this morning:

It is a story with an unhappy start, but maybe, just maybe, it is developing into a positive one.

Oh, and this:

The WordPress Daily Prompt for September 16 asks, “Fears evolve over time. What is one fear you’ve conquered?”

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  1. Leigh W. Smith · September 16, 2015

    Great story, Mark. Sad, but hardly surprising that this happened to Ahmed in Texas, where they’ve altered their science and history textbooks to make them inaccurate and where Mr Turnip, presidential candidate and mental vegetable, is drawing big crowds of late.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. marklapolla · September 16, 2015

    I want to see the clock. Was it mechanical or did it have a crystal. Do you have pictures of it? I am a pocket watch collector and a clock collector. Though, I tend to collect more pocket watches than clocks. If I remember correctly, way back when, when I was in Junior High and High School, we were always blowing things up by accident. No one thought we were terroists. #IStandWithAhmed Many of my friend were named Ahmed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mark Aldrich · September 16, 2015

      No one has seen the clock, as it is being held as “evidence” by the Irving PD. Judging from photos of Ahmed’s other projects, it probably looks like something made with circuit board and a digital face sautered on. Like something Radio Shack used to sell schematics for.


    • wscottling · September 16, 2015
  3. wscottling · September 16, 2015

    Yep, I would have pulled my (non Muslim) kids out of that school too, publicly and with great noise about their stupid Zero Tolerance policies which need to be done away with. Idiots, the lot of them.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. wscottling · September 16, 2015

    Reblogged this on Willow's Corner and commented:
    A lot of my husband’s family live in Texas, as do some of my friends. But I’m sorry, I’m so glad that I no longer live in the South because stuff like this happens there.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. nonsmokingladybug · September 16, 2015

    I too would like to see the clock first, before I make a judgement call. I am sitting on the fence here, if you don’t mind me say so. I can understand why teachers are scared these days. However, I can not understand that the kid got arrested and suspended, when it wasn’t a bomb or a prank. And I hope (one can hope) that his “looks” had nothing to do with it.

    We lived in the South for a few years, and some of the things I witnessed and heard were torture. I always felt like living in a different country, or a part of the US that never made it to the 21st century.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. lifelessons · September 16, 2015

    What a ridiculous incident. The poor kid looks so bewildered. I don’t think most real bombers would take their device to school and show it to a teacher! Real bombers hide their actions, folks. Duh. ‘It could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car.” Was it left under a car or in a bathroom? No. Most of the TV bombs I’ve seen lately are set off by a cellphone. Are they going to ban cellphones at this school as well? I hope some of the other parents and kids rallied behind Ahmed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mark Aldrich · September 16, 2015

      Looks like the whole country has. I liked the President’s message and invite. Ahmed and his family will be making the TV news show rounds tonight.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Mark Aldrich · September 16, 2015

    #FreeAhmed! Charges were dropped today.

    The law enforcers of Irving, Texas, serve under an administration that makes being against terrorism a priority, so much so that it almost seems to want terrorism to happen there. They’re ready for it, goshdarnit. The mayor of Irving, Texas, has spent her brief career fighting against … well, not so much fighting as fundraising for her PAC against … something that does not exist in Texas or anywhere in the United States of America: the imposition of “sharia law.” She defended the school today, but not with specifics. This is Mayor Beth Van Duyne: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/ahmed-mohamed-beth-van-duyne-sharia

    And this is Mayor Beth Van Duyne: http://www.facebook.com/BethVanDuyneTX/photos/a.1562798203976731.1073741828.1558042497785635/1566559473600604/?type=1

    Standing up against sharia law in Texas is like declaring that we must prevent people from somehow becoming pro-Loch Ness Monster and from dropping this nonexistent monster secretly into our water supply and from changing our legal system to becoming pro-Loch Ness Monster while at it. Standing up against sharia law in Texas is a matter of simply declaring that one is so very against something that is happening in certain countries that we wish for their citizens was not happening that one fears it will somehow happen here, even though: 1. We do not have a government of religion. 2. We do not have an official religion. 3. Further, that official religion that we do not have here is not Islam. 4. That portion of Islam that dictates “sharia law” over its citizenry? That Islam is not our official governmental religion that we do not have, either. Is there a 5.? There probably ought to be one.

    So how anyone legitimately fears “sharia law” being imposed here is simply beyond me. The truth is, they do not “legitimately fear” this outcome; they do legitimately love the income they derive from all the TV appearances and donations from the easily duped that they receive. The Mayor of Irving, Texas, is one of them, and she is making a lot of money for herself. Her police force is being trained to always be at the ready. One wishes #JadeHelm had been real, sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. macbofisbil · September 16, 2015

    I just saw this topic on the late night news a few minutes ago after reading this article and hitting the like button. Great job reporting on it and getting all the juicy bits out before it even aired on TV. I still don’t get what the fuss over a clock is. But #IStandWithAhmed – hashtag of the day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · September 16, 2015

      The clock could be a timing mechanism on a bomb.

      Thank you for reading it closely, Matt. I should have included that.


      • macbofisbil · September 17, 2015

        OK, now I get it. Thanks for clearing that up for me.

        Liked by 1 person

        • macbofisbil · September 17, 2015

          I didn’t mean to sound naive because I didn’t read through the post carefully again before posting my comment. Yes, I do get why a school would be scared of a Muslim building what looks like a bomb, after the Boston Marathon Bombings happened in 2013. But to handcuff him and just assume he was building a bomb is a little stereotypical, especially when this was his passion in life. Thanks for reporting this. You definitely have the post of the day. It’s all over the news and Facebook.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Mark Aldrich · September 17, 2015

          The young man kept showing it to his teachers, didn’t hide it in his backpack.

          Like I wrote, if his name was Mark Aldrich, we would not know anything about the doings in a average Monday in a high school in Texas.


  9. Mark Aldrich · September 16, 2015

    One of the two major political parties held a debate among its candidates running for U.S. President. Ahmed found no friends there, as the police and school were defended. By all of them.

    Bobby Jindal, a sitting governor of a major state, was asked about the above story and immediately replied with a comment about how Muslim leaders need to “‘denounce’ individual Muslims who commit acts of terrorism if they want to avoid discrimination. ‘We’re at war today with radical Islamic extremists,’ Jindal said. ‘It’s not politically correct to say that, but the way you strike that balance, you say to Muslim leaders, denounce these fools, these radical terrorists by name, say they’re not martyrs.’
    “Jindal also added that anti-Christian discrimination is a larger issue, specifically referencing the case of Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who was briefly jailed after failing to obey a court order requiring her to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. ‘The biggest discrimination that’s going on is against Christian business owners and individuals who believe in traditional forms of marriage,’ he said.

    Bus, meet Ahmed, he was just thrown under you.


  10. Pingback: Finding My Voice – One Year Later | The World Through My Eyes
  11. j. forreaux · September 17, 2015

    I do not live in Texas, nor anywhere in the US for that matter. But once I saw this on the news, I was deeply embarrassed for America. Because this type of idiocy usually only happens in third-world countries where people (even the police) are not well-trained to know the difference between a bomb and a clock. I feel sorry for that kid. No 14-year-old deserves to be treated that way, especially not in front of his classmates. God forbid his crush was on the same class where he got picked up by the principal AND the police. #IStandWithAhmed Thank you for writing this article, though. It really is an eye-opener.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I follow The Kindness Blog – here’s a post of theirs from today I thought might be of interest to you if you hadn’t come across it/something like it yet. Marianne


    Liked by 1 person

  13. socialaction2014 · September 17, 2015

    Reblogged this on Social Action.


  14. Mr. Militant Negro · September 17, 2015

    Reblogged this on The Militant Negro™.


  15. briefsalvage · September 20, 2015

    Reblogged this on brief salvage.


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