9th grader arrested at school for home made clock

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SHAFAQNA - Ahmed Mohamed, a 9th grader from Irving in Texas hoped to impress his teachers when he brought a homemade clock to his school last Monday in a report in DallasNews.

Rather than be pleased, the school then placed a call to the police about Ahmed’s circuit-stuffed pencil case

The 14-year-old missed the student council meeting and was taken in handcuffs to juvenile detention. His clock now sits in an evidence room. Police say they may yet charge him with making a hoax bomb — though they acknowledge he told everyone who would listen that it’s a clock.

Box of circuit boards

A box full of circuit boards sits at the foot of Ahmed’s small bed in central Irving.

“Here in high school, none of the teachers know what I can do,” Ahmed said, fiddling with a cable while a soldering iron dangled from the shelf behind him.

He loved robotics club in middle school and was searching for a similar niche in his first few weeks of high school.

So he decided to do what he’s always done: He built something. Throwing the pieces together in 20 minutes, the clock was nothing more than a circuit board and power supply wired to  digital display, all strapped inside a pencil case that had a tiger hologram on the front.

He showed it to his engineering teacher first thing Monday morning but his reaction was unexpected.

“He was like, ‘That’s really nice,’” Ahmed said. “‘I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’”

He kept the clock inside his school bag in English class, but the teacher complained when the alarm beeped in the middle of a lesson. Ahmed showed her invention.

“She was like, it looks like a bomb,” he said.

“I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me.’”

The teacher kept the clock. When the principal and a police officer pulled Ahmed out of sixth period, he suspected he wouldn’t get it back.

The bell rang at least twice, he said, while the officers searched his belongings and questioned his intentions. The principal threatened to expel him if he didn’t make a written statement, he said.

“They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’” Ahmed said.

“I told them no, I was trying to make a clock.”

“He said, ‘It looks like a movie bomb to me.’”

Police Skepticism

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.

Police led Ahmed out of his school at 3 p.m., his hands cuffed behind him and an officer on each arm. A few students gaped in the halls. He remembers the shocked expression of his student counselor — the one “who knows I’m a good boy.”

The police sent him out of the juvenile detention center to meet his parents shortly after taking his fingerprints.

They’re still investigating the case, and Ahmed hasn’t been back to school. His family said the principal suspended him for three days.

“They thought, ‘How could someone like this build something like this unless it’s a threat?’” Ahmed said.

An Irving ISD statement gave no details about the case, citing student privacy laws.

Just an invention

“He just wants to invent good things for mankind,” said Ahmed’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, who immigrated from Sudan and occasionally returns there to run for president. “But because his name is Mohamed and because of Sept. 11, I think my son got mistreated.”

“This all raises a red flag for us: how Irving’s government entities are operating in the current climate,” said Alia Salem, who directs the Counci of North American-Islamic Relations’, North Texas chapter and has spoken to lawyers about Ahmed’s arrest.

“We’re still investigating,” she said, “but it seems pretty egregious.”

Meanwhile, Ahmed is sitting home in his bedroom, tinkering with old gears and electrical converters, pronouncing words like “ethnicity” for what sounds like the first time. However it is the last time that he has vowed to take any invention to school.

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