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“Clock Boy” Ahmed Mohamed’s Lawsuit Dismissed

Ahemd Mohamed’s, also known as “Clock Boy”, discrimination lawsuit has been dismissed from federal court. In September 2015, then 14 year old Mohamed assembled a clock using a circuit board and digital display and brought the clock to school. One of his teachers heard the device beeping and brought Mohamed to the principal’s office.

He was arrested and then suspended for three days. Mohamed claims he was interrogated for ninety minutes before the police would allow him to speak with his parents. Mohamed was charged with possession of a hoax bomb, but the charge was later dropped. He was suspended for three days by the school district.

Mohamed’s arrest sparked a social media firestorm amend allegations that he had been discriminated against because of his religion and ethnicity. Several weeks after his arrest, Mohamed was invited to the White House and spoke with President Obama. The police defended the arrest on the basis that the device could have been mistaken for a bomb if it had been left unattended.

clock boyMohamed’s father filed a lawsuit in federal court in August 2016 against the high school, its principal, and the city of Irving, Texas. The family demanded a written apology and $15 million in damages. Judge Sam Lindsay dismissed the case in 2016, but without prejudice so that Mohamed could refile with more facts. Two years later though, Judge Lindsay dismissed the case again, this time denying Mohamed the ability to refile.

Uphill Battle in Exigent Circumstances

Mohamed’s lawsuit was based on the theory that the Irving School District and City of Irving had discriminated against him based on religion and face, thereby violating the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Mohamed could plea based on the Constitution itself rather than rely on the Civil Rights Act because the School District and the City were controlled by the Constitution directly.

The problem with Mohamed’s complaint was that the case did not lend itself to discrimination on its face. If someone brings a device that looks like a bomb to a classroom, school officials and law enforcement are required to act. Police might have overreacted when they arrested Mohamed and held him for interrogation for over an hour, but the City and School District would have been negligent if they hadn’t acted at all.

Mohamed and his supporters could speculate that the police and the school would not have reacted the way they did if Mohamed was not Arabic or Muslim. However, lawsuits must be built on facts in the case, not mere speculation. Moreover, there’s no way to know how the school or police would react to an Asian or Caucasian student with a device that could reasonably look like a bomb unless someone actually does it.

A more interesting angle in this case is whether Mohamed’s criminal due process was violated. According to Mohamed, he was held for ninety minutes for questioning by police before he was allowed to speak with his parents. Since Mohamed was being held for questioning, the police needed to inform him of his Miranda rights.

Although some news agencies are reporting that he wasn’t allowed to speak with his parents while he was being interrogated, it’s important to know whether he asked for an attorney while he was being held. Sadly, his case was already dismissed with prejudice, so these questions probably won’t be answered.

Jason Cheung

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