Hold on a sec­ond, teacher. It’s a home­made clock, not a bomb

Teenager’s in­no­va­tive de­vice sparks panic at Texas school, but Obama, Had­field think it’s pretty cool

Toronto Star - - FRONT PAGE - SARAH KA­PLAN THE WASHINGTON POST

Four­teen-year-old Ahmed Mo­hamed just wanted to get no­ticed by his teach­ers. In­stead, he got ar­rested. Now he’s been in­vited to science fairs at the White House and in Toronto.

In an in­ci­dent that has raised al­le­ga­tions of racism and made a Texas school dis­trict the tar­get of online out­rage, the Grade 9 pupil was pulled out of school in hand­cuffs af­ter a dig­i­tal clock he built him­self was mis­taken for a bomb.

On Wed­nes­day, Larry Boyd, the po­lice chief in Irv­ing, Texas, about 20 kilo­me­tres north­west of Dal­las, said Ahmed would not be charged with any wrong­do­ing. The boy’s three-day sus­pen­sion from school ends Thurs­day.

“We have no ev­i­dence to sup­port that there was an in­ten­tion to cre­ate alarm or cause peo­ple to be con­cerned,” Boyd said dur­ing a press con­fer­ence af­ter news of the teen’s ar­rest prompted na­tional out­cry.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama tweeted: “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.”

Obama in­vited the 14-year-old high school fresh­man to at­tend As­tron­omy Night at the White House on Oct. 19.

Cana­dian as­tro­naut Chris Had­field, a sup­porter of science ed­u­ca­tion, in­vited Ahmed via Twit­ter to the Gen­er­a­tor science show in Toronto on Oct. 28.

“There’s a ticket wait­ing for you,” he wrote.

Mark Zucker­berg, the bil­lion­aire founder of the so­cial net­work­ing gi­ant Face­book, in­vited Ahmed to visit his com­pany’s head­quar­ters in Cal­i­for­nia. The re­sponse also trig­gered a flood of so­cial media sup­port us­ing the hash­tag #IS­tandWithAhmed.

“It’s clear that at least some of Ahmed’s teach­ers failed him. That’s too bad, but it’s not too late for all of us to see this as a teach­able mo­ment,” the White House press sec­re­tary, Josh Earnest, said. “Per­ni­cious stereo­types can af­fect even good peo­ple.”

Ahmed, a self-as­sured kid with thick-framed glasses and a se­ri­ous ex­pres­sion, had just started at MacArthur High School a few weeks ago. He has a tal­ent for tin­ker­ing — he con­structs his own ra­dios, re­pairs his own go-kart, and once built a Blue­tooth speaker as a gift for a 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,’ ” Ahmed told the news­pa­per. “’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 Ahmed.

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

But the English teacher kept the clock, and dur­ing sixth pe­riod, Ah- med 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.”

A school dis­trict spokes­woman, Lesley Weaver, de­clined to con­firm Ahmed’s sus­pen­sion, cit­ing pri­vacy laws, but said of­fi­cials were con­cerned with stu­dent safety and not the boy’s faith.

“We were do­ing ev­ery­thing with an abun­dance of cau­tion,” Weaver said.

“He just wants to in­vent good things for mankind,” Ahmed’s fa­ther, Mo­hamed El­has­san Mo­hamed, told the Morn­ing News. “But be­cause his name is Mo­hamed and be­cause of Sept. 11 . . . my son got mis­treated.”

“Hav­ing the skill and am­bi­tion to build some­thing cool should lead to ap­plause, not ar­rest,’’ Zucker­berg wrote in a Face­book post. “The fu­ture be­longs to peo­ple like Ahmed.”

VER­NON BRYANT/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Of­fi­cials at Ahmed Mo­hamed’s Texas high school called po­lice Mon­day.

BRAN­DON WADE/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ahmed Mo­hamed, 14, has re­ceived an in­vi­ta­tion to tour Face­book’s head­quar­ters, among other sup­port.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.