IRVING, Texas - The family of the teenager known as “Clock Boy” is suing the city of Irving and the Irving school district over what happened to him at his school last year.
Attorney Susan Hutchison said Ahmed Mohamed’s civil rights were violated at Irving MacArthur High School in September when he was interrogated at length without his parents and arrested on hoax bomb charges.
“You have a boy who took a pencil box – as you can see it’s not a brief case or a suitcase, it’s a pencil box and my hand fits over it -- to school because he had told his English teacher that he was going to make something to show her, which he did all throughout middle school,” Hutchison said.
The attorney said after Mohamed told his teacher the gadget was an alarm clock, she took it from him. Hours later, the principal and an Irving police officer pulled him out of class to interrogate him, refusing to allow him to have his parents there.
“He told them over and over again, ‘It’s an alarm clock. I made it for my teacher,’” she said. “Despite that fact and the despite the fact that they knew it wasn’t a bomb, that he never threatened anyone, that he never said it was a bomb, that he never alarmed anyone… despite all of those things they yanked him out of his chair, put him in handcuffs and arrested him.”
Even after police dropped the charges, Hutchison said the school still suspended Mohamed.
“So yes, those are violations of his civil rights,” she said.
Initially Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd said the 14-year-old was not very forthcoming about the suspicious device and officers acted in an abundance of caution.
“The city of Irving is prepared to vigorously defend itself and the justifiable actions it took in this matter. The legal process will allow all facts to be revealed, and the city welcomes that opportunity. The city of Irving's top priority is to ensure the safety and security of its children and the entire community. The city will continue to take its duty and responsibility to serve and protect the public seriously,” the city said in a statement Monday.
The Irving Independent School District still denies violating Mohamed's rights, but said it will respond to claims in accordance with court rules. It would not comment any further because of the pending litigation.
Attorney Daryl Washington, who is not affiliated with the case, read over the lawsuit. He said we won't know the strength of the lawsuit until the other side has had a chance to respond to the allegations.
"There are some very strong allegations,” said Washington. “And if there's indeed support to back the allegations, I say it's going to be a very strong complaint."
Mohamed’s story went viral on social media and was invited to the White House, participated in Google’s science fair and included in Time’s “Most Influential Teens of 2015” list.
“We hear over and over again about how great this has been for Ahmed because he got to meet the president and got to meet some famous people. Those things have lasted five minutes,” Hutchison said. “Moving his whole family, losing their home here, the constant barrage of horrible, hateful, mean, terrible things that people are saying to this little boy… he has to endure that all day, every day.”
He ended up moving to Qatar with his family, but is back in Irving for the summer. On Monday he said he likes his new school and has friends there, but still misses home. He doesn’t think he can return permanently yet because of the continuous death threats and hate mail.
“For the safety of my family, I have to go back to Qatar because right now it’s not very safe,” he said.
Mohamed admits that he’s lost some of his creativity. He said he used to love building things, but now he’s afraid.
“I get a lot of hate. I got a lot of support in the beginning, but it’s the hate that sticks. Some of it is so damaging. I get death threats. What did I ever do to someone to get death threats?” he asked.
The family is seeking justice in the only way the American legal system allows, which is with money, their attorney said. No dollar amount is listed on the lawsuit because Hutchison said she wants a jury to set the amount.