Willful Paranoia: The Classic Excuse for Willful Paranoia #IStandWithAhmed

American lives are controlled by the thuggishly mediocre. The best measure of their control is this: when called out on their mediocre thuggery, they can comfortably double down.

Ahmed Mohamed, a bright and curious ninth-grader in Irving, Texas, learned that to his regret this week.

Ahmed made a clock. He likes to make thing and repair things and tinker with things, apparently. Last weekend he built a digital clock out of a circuit board and a power display and a digital display. There is, I suppose, a chance that I could do that without electrocuting myself, but I wouldn't bet on it.

In his head, Ahmed lives in an idealized world he learned about in robotics club: a world where individuality and curiosity and initiative are appreciated. Or at least he did. But this week he found out that he actually lives in a different world, a grim real world controlled by school administrators and cops who are deeply suspicious of individuality, if not openly hostile. Ahmed lives in a world where children's lives are limited by the stupid, ineffectual fear of the petty and the ignorant. He lives in a world where school administrators strip-search thirteen-year-old girls to look for ibuprofin and suspend eight-year-olds for making pretend finger-guns while playing cops and robbers. He lives in a world where police arrest seven-year-olds for bringing a nerf gun to class and perp-walk twelve-year-olds in front of their peers for writing "I love my friends" on a desk with a marker.

In that world, Ahmed's clever clock didn't earn him admiration. It earned him a trip to the principal's office, a contemptuous and skeptical interrogation by an officer of the Irving Police Department, a suspension, and a trip in handcuffs to a juvenile detention center — because a circuit board with a time display must be a bomb, or at least intended to look like a bomb.

Actually nobody thought the clock was a bomb. The school didn't think it was a bomb. The police admitted they never thought it was a bomb. The police admitted Ahmed never suggested it was a bomb, or that he meant for anyone to think it was anything but a clock. But grown-ups detained, interrogated, arrested, and handcuffed Ahmed because they couldn't conceive of why a kid would build his own clock:

“We have no information that he claimed it was a bomb,” McLellan said. “He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.”

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?”

Did the putative adults pestering Ahmed do it because his name is Ahmed Mohamed and he's brown? Maybe. “Yup. That’s who I thought it was,” said one officer mysteriously upon seeing him. But on the other hand, this is the era of zero tolerance and of institutionalized paranoia and of petty little people using fear to hold on to power. This is what our kids' lives are like, and we've decided to accept it. Schools are safer now than before, but we've decided to feed on the fear the media feeds us and accept that they are more dangerous, justifying harsher treatment of kids. Kids are safer than ever, but we've consented to being constantly terrified about various menaces to them. Cops are safer, but we've decided to accept their narrative that they are the targets of an unprecedented war, and hand them the power they say they need.

My mother was a school administrator, and there are many decent and concerned school administrators. But to be blunt, school administrators were generally not the kid who built his or her own clock at 14. (Cops were generally the kid who beat up the kid who built the clock.) There are two ways for school administrators to deal with the unfamiliar, the unknown, the different: they can try to learn about it, and even nurture it, or they can react to it with fear and suspicion. We've told school administrators and police "we choose fear, and we want you to choose fear too."

Cops and school administrators are utterly confident in our support when they abuse someone like Ahmed. You can see it in the response of principal Dan Cummings:

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. 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. We will always take necessary precautions to protect our students.

In other words, faced with a freakish overreaction by the school, and the suspension and detention of a student for building a clock that nobody ever thought was dangerous, the school's response is to remind students that some items are prohibited (even though nobody says the clock was), and to exhort students to report "suspicious" items and behavior. In response to a public saying "you're paranoid," the school's response is "you're goddamn right I am, and you should be too."

When I was a kid, schools and cops generally didn't do anything about bullying. Now they profess to be very concerned about it, and there are elaborate programs in place that purport to combat it. But educators and cops either don't grasp, or don't care, that their culture of fear encourages bullying. Detaining and humiliating a geeky kid who built a clock, and following up with a self-justifying "if you see something, say something" warning, sends an unmistakable message: different is suspicious. That's a bully's attitude, too.

We're expected to give cops and administrators the benefit of the doubt. I don't: I think they are like any other human beings. There are some good and some bad. Some care, and some are doing what they do to increase their own power. But even the well-intentioned who participate in a culture of fear are blameworthy. To them, I say this: you say you're trying to protect our children. But instead you've devoted your career to making the world a worse place for them.

Terrorist clock? Or birth of a new libertarian? DON'T FEED THE WOODCHIPPER!

Terrorist clock? Or birth of a new libertarian? DON'T FEED THE WOODCHIPPER!

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. Frank says

    Welcome to Liberal Utopia where if you don't do the same thing as everyone else, you are guilty of some sort of crime, even if it's "just" a thought crime.

    School administrators don't want to have to exercise critical thinking skills anymore. They just want to shuffle the herd in one door and out of the other. If you do something that challenges that, like think on your own, you are guilty of something and must be punished in the name of "think of the children".

  2. Brent W says

    Frank, if you think Irving is a Liberal utopia you may want to plan a field trip to some of Dallas' fine suburbs. Bring an NRA hat.

  3. Jay says

    To cast this as a problem lying solely at the feet of liberals or conservatives does a huge disservice to the issue. Prostrating ourselves at the feet of the global security/police state has been a bipartisan activity for years at this point.

  4. says

    When I was in the 5th grade, I loved chemistry. Once I unleashed bromine vapor in the classroom (w/o teachers’ authorization or knowledge). That caused the evacuation of the class. My parents were summoned, and I got a good (verbal) beating at home. However, my love to chemistry was not killed, and my faith in humanity was not shattered at that time. I expressed remorse, learned from my mistakes and moved forward.

    It took place in the Soviet Union in 1970s. Today, in the Land of the Free I wouldn’t have any future if my adventurous spirit mixed with stupidity manifested itself the same way. My yet unborn daughter wouldn’t have any future either.

    The most troubling is that unlike us, who witnessed a different world, modern kids wouldn’t realize the gravity of today’s situation poisoned with “zero tolerance” and similar satanic concepts.

  5. Andrew says

    As I have commented elsewhere, this is the bigotted attitude which causes disaffection and can lead to the very thing, "sucidal jihadists", that it is meant to prevent. Would a 14 year old white male have been treated like this?

  6. Oscar Gordon says

    I am waiting for the day when police suddenly realize that every engineer, biologist, chemist, & physicist has the knowledge & basic skills to build crude but damned effective WMDs.

  7. says

    Did the putative adults pestering Ahmed do it because his name is Ahmed Mohamed and he's brown? Maybe. “Yup. That’s who I thought it was,” said one officer mysteriously upon seeing him. But on the other hand, this is the era of zero tolerance and of institutionalized paranoia and of petty little people using fear to hold on to power. This is what our kids' lives are like, and we've decided to accept it. Schools are safer now than before

    Well then clearly it's working, Ken! Why do you want to go back to the era when schools were vastly more dangerous because we didn't properly strip search our 13 year olds?

    Maybe the reason American test scores are so bad is because if you show enough initiative and intelligence to get noticed, your teachers decide you're a threat and call the cops.

  8. B. says

    Even though I agree with Jay in that the root cause of the problem is bipartisan, I'm laughing at the notion that any truly liberal mentality would be so close-minded and paranoid. Fear of the unknown and hatred for "others" is the backbone of social conservatism.

  9. Joe says

    This is a travesty. I've worked in CIED (counter IED) for 5 years. I've personally seen and analyzed thousands of electrical trigger devices. If all Ahmed had was a clock, there's not way it could possibly have been mistaken as an IED by anyone with any sort of background on the subject. You have to make obvious, visual modifications to that sort of circuit board to use it in a bomb. I would hope that someone who actually knows what the heck they're talking about tells the idiots involved to drop the case.

  10. Oscar Gordon says

    Joe,

    No one actually thinks it's a bomb (anymore), now they've just moved onto the whole "Oh crap, we made a huge friggin' deal over a toy and saying sorry is hard, let's double down on the stupid and wonder aloud why a kid would build an electronic clock & bring it to school if not to create a bomb scare".

  11. PonyAdvocate says

    I can't help thinking that this is another place where personal liability for asshole-ish behavior might discourage asshole-ish behavior by the authorities. If immunity exists in such cases, this is another place where immunity needs to be re-considered. The principle "For every wrong, the law provides a remedy" is not one in which I have much confidence these days.

  12. Static Variable says

    If the kid was white, would this post even exist? (Question for people like Anil Dash)

    Ken, I disagree with you here. Being vigilant about threats to safety is not a culture of fear. There was a concern about safety, cops responded to it with due diligence. Should the principal ignore safety concerns? Should cops not do their job and respond to them?

    Honestly I am dissapointed in people when it comes to cops, when cops fail at their job, you get BLM, when they actually do their job, you get Anil Dash. There is no win when you work for the public is there?

    The administration cannot always tell whether a threat is real or not. It took a chance, it got it wrong. Does this mean they should drop their guard down and hope bad things (like gun violence, drugs, gang warfare) don't happen?

    PS: Airport security forbids small bottles with liquids, regardless if they are legitimate or not, and rightfully so after people got killed. Maybe instead of looking at the cops on this one, we should look at ourselves and ask "Why we cannot have nice things?"

  13. says

    It starts with all the less than capable people who are able to purchase degrees universities feel obligated to give them due to enormous amounts of foolishly borrowed money.

  14. _NL says

    Everybody who ever responds to an act of violence, like a school shooting, a terrorist attack, a domestic incident, or a murder, with some variation of "why didn't anybody see this coming?" is contributing in a very small way to the collective sense that cops and authority figures and schools must use precognition to catch violent offenders before they offend. People who say things like that are implicitly encouraging schools and cops to treat kids like Ahmed as if they are terrorists.

    So when a shooter with a history of erratic or bizarre behavior shoots a bunch of people, and some people say "people around him should have seen this coming and stopped him" you are de facto implying that something like what happened to Ahmed should be common practice. You are saying that innocent people with unusual behaviors should be treated like future mass murderers until proven otherwise. When people in the midst of fear, grief and hindsight tell schools, police, counselors and families that they are supposed to predict violent behavior based on warning signs identified post hoc, we get ridiculous overreaction like this.

    If in two years, Ahmed had committed whatever nefarious deeds reside in the fevered nightmares of the skittish police in Irving, TX, then this exact incident would be brought forward as "proof" that "they should have stopped him then." Yeah, it sounds stupid now because Ahmed is just some kid who deserves the benefit of the doubt for being eccentric, creative, and idiosyncratic. Let's try to remember this result later, after the next vicious shooting, when people are in the grips of fear and recrimination and start lashing out at anybody to "fix it." "Fixing it" means treating creative ninth-graders like terrorists for being individualists and tinkerers.

  15. krychek_2 says

    The silver lining, though, is that thanks to social media, it's becoming harder and harder for the professional paranoid class to pull this off. It's being reported that the school is receiving massive blowback from an outraged public; I predict they'll backpedal in a day or two.

    None of that makes right what happened to this kid. But at least what goes around is starting to come back.

  16. ZarroTsu says

    Once upon a time, as a stupid kid during winter, I threw snow up in the air to simulate snowfall. Because I was a stupid kid, it was winter, and snow is fun.

    A bit of the snow I was tossing into the air, landed on a fellow student. This student informed a teacher, who informed the principal, that I was physically harming him, producing no evidence other than infeasibly wet skin during the winter time, or a lightly dampened hat.

    Naturally, I was suspended for throwing snow, after parental interrogation and forcing the concept upon me that I was, regardless of merits or evidence, at fault for the actions another said I was.

    As justly proven, only the actors ever lie. Reactors always tell the truth, even if sometimes they need to make it the truth. But that's okay. It means non-actors are safe from actors; and they are and always will be the most important.

  17. nbdy says

    I wish, as does Ahmed, that we lived in a world where principals like Dan Cummings actually earned the salary they are paid by exhibiting discretion, reason, "common sense"
    While expressing "concern" for the safety of the students, where was his concern for the one student that mattered in this? Education today, where they no longer grasp the teachable moments …

  18. Oscar Gordon says

    Static Variable

    If the police had been called, the device examined, and after determining it harmless, the kid returned to class & the police went on their merry way, this would not be an issue. It's the fact that once the police were called, someone HAD to be arrested/detained/cuffed/etc.

    PS who was ever killed with a small bottle of liquid? The whole liquids thing was the result of a chemist talking about binary explosives being possible, and people freaked out without realizing that, unlike the Die Hard movie, you can't just mix two harmless, colorless, odorless chemicals and have things go boom. Binary explosives require chemicals that are either very volatile, smelly, or require additional processing (such as heating), all things that would be difficult to get pass a quick security check or do on a plane.

  19. Mikee says

    In high school I made a gizmo with an electromagnet inside. I'd hand it to someone, ask them to hold it in one hand and push the button with the other hand, completing the circuit. The ensuing electric shock wasn't enough to kill someone or even really hurt, but the surprise was hilarious to anyone watching.

    After dozens and dozens of victims my only punishment was that I was prevented from making a similar device that would attach to a bank of lockers and zap anyone that touched a locker with both hands. Guess that's just one benefit of being white in America.

    This overreaction is sad, and just as sad are responses like Frank's.

    "Welcome to Liberal Utopia"

    Anyone dumb enough to make that kind of statement about Texas doesn't understand the definitions of the words liberal, utopia, or Texas.

  20. DRJlaw says

    @Static Variable

    Ken, I disagree with you here. Being vigilant about threats to safety is not a culture of fear. There was a concern about safety, cops responded to it with due diligence. Should the principal ignore safety concerns? Should cops not do their job and respond to them?

    Perceiving anything and everything as a potential threat is not being vigilant, it is being neurotic.

    Do you know how one differentiates scary hobbiest equipment using breadboards, individual wires, and LEDs or other displays from bombs? ONE IS JUST A CIRCUIT BOARD AND SOME WIRES AND THE OTHER HAS TO HAVE A BIG BLOCK OR CONTAINER OF EXPLOSIVE MATERIAL ATTACHED. A breadboard, wires, and a display is unusual but it is not a threat.

    We've had underwear bombs, sneaker bombs, toner cartridge bombs, etc. Under your reasoning, I should report everyone dealing with these threatening objects to our vigilant mendicants because OMG IT MIGHT BE A BOMB.

    This is simple, neurotic persecution of someone who could be muslim and dared to bring homebrew technology into an engineering class. God forbid the school holds a science fair. May as well instruct all the brown children to bring sports equipment because anything else may be a bioweapon, an explosive, surveillance equipment scouting out potential targets for mass casualties…

  21. Eric says

    @Static Variable

    The administration cannot always tell whether a threat is real or not. It took a chance, it got it wrong. Does this mean they should drop their guard down and hope bad things (like gun violence, drugs, gang warfare) don't happen?

    But that is not what happened here. Instead of dropping the matter once it was clear the clock was just a clock, the folks in charge decided to double down and accuse Ahmed of attempting to create a bomb hoax, on what appears to be no evidence whatsoever. That's not vigilance – at best it is pettiness to cover up embarrassment.

    And frankly, if school authorities where really worried about gun violence, drugs and gang warfare, they should be absolutely thrilled by and encourage students like Ahmed who spend their spare time learning stuff and building things.

  22. John says

    Yes, this people are mediocre. But what do you expect school administrators to be? Sorry but the best and brightest are never going to be in these jobs.

    Yes, they are thugish but their thugishness is a rational response to the situation that society as a whole as created. The real cause of this sort of thing is the societal wide mentality to look at every tragedy and think "why didn't someone do more". We seem to have lost the ability to accept the fact that sometimes people do horrible and unexplainable things and sometimes awful and tragic things happen that are completely the fault of one deranged individual and no one else.

    The result of this mentality is that people in petty positions of power live every day in complete fear of being the person who didn't do something. Remember, they are never rewarded for doing something sensible. They are only punished when something bad happens that they somehow could have prevented.

    Society also sues over virtually anything. The threat of litigation has effectively ended the ability of school administrators to give any student a break over anything. Lets say they did the sensible thing and congratulated this kid on his clock. That is great until next week or next month when some other kid brings something to school that really is a threat. Then when they kick him out he sues saying you let Muhammad bring what looked like a bomb to school. That sounds and is ridiculous but this is what actually happens. So what administrators do is just punish everyone for anything. That way they never can be accused of racism or unfair treatment.

    I am not defending these people's actions. They are by any objective definition insane. We should understand, however, these things don't come from nowhere. They are not the result of these people being evil or thugish. They are the entirely predictable results other things going on in society. While it makes us feel good to go and roast these people, it really doesn't do any good if we don't also do something about the litigiousness and irrational risk aversion that I explain above. The entire country needs to relearn the hard reality that sometimes bad things happen and it is not anyone in charge's fault and there are no deeper meanings or lessons to be learned beyond things are often awful. Until the country relearns that, we can expect more of this.

  23. TBlakely says

    "Would a 14 year old white male have been treated like this?"

    Why yes they have, it just doesn't make the news because it doesn't fit the narrative.

    "Fear of the unknown and hatred for "others" is the backbone of social conservatism."

    No, conservatives know exactly what they fear. It's the destruction of western values and all things that make this country great which is the ultimate goal of libs/progs. They don't like America. They don't like it's history, it's culture and they don't like most of the people living in it thus the fetish for 'transforming' this country. Rabid racism isn't conservative, it's the left. Pretty much any 'blue' city, those that have been run by Democrats for an extended period, are racist hell-holes run by corrupt, incompetent hacks. Far, far worse than anything you'll find in Texas.

  24. Mikee says

    RE: TBlakely

    ""Would a 14 year old white male have been treated like this?"

    Why yes they have, it just doesn't make the news because it doesn't fit the narrative."

    Speaking from personal experience, you're wrong.

  25. DRJlaw says

    "Would a 14 year old white male have been treated like this?"

    Why yes they have, it just doesn't make the news because it doesn't fit the narrative.

    The the 2007 Boston Bomb Scare appears to contradict your narrative. Care to support that with any actual counterexamples?

  26. EH says

    Dan Cummings used to be a football coach, has a business degree, and is now the Principal of a sports school. Guess where his values lie.

  27. En Passant says

    Static Variable says September 16, 2015 at 9:32 am:

    Ken, I disagree with you here. Being vigilant about threats to safety is not a culture of fear. There was a concern about safety, cops responded to it with due diligence. Should the principal ignore safety concerns? Should cops not do their job and respond to them?

    That is the classical argument from ignorance:

    1. I do not know or understand what I am looking at.
    2. Therefore it must be something dangerous, miraculous, or otherwise extraordinary.

    When the kid explains that it is an electronic clock, why doubt him? Because you think you know more than he is telling you? But you just admitted you had no idea what you were seeing.

    In fact, reacting as if some danger is present despite what the kid said is equivalent to a baboon inflating his chest and pounding it to frighten away a perceived threat.

    All the principal and police have demonstrated is that they are buffoons with the power to turn peoples' lives upside down on a whim because their overexercised limbic systems go into high gear whenever they perceive something they are too intellectually stunted to understand.

    They should be held personally liable for any damages the kid suffered, including punitive damages, then removed from the public payroll and forbidden to hold any government position again.

  28. weatherguesser says

    I'm disgusted by this, and particularly by the reaction of the Principal and the police to it. Once it was determined that the clock clearly wasn't a bomb, they should have congratulated Ahmed on his ingenuity and gone on with their business. Instead, they totally blew the thing out of all proportion.

    When I was in 4th grade in Arizona in the mid-50s, several of us kids used to bring to school glass pickle jars full of scorpions that we'd caught, with the encouragement of our teacher, who was friends with a biologist at Arizona State University who'd developed a scorpion antivenin and needed scorpion venom to make it. These days just bringing a glass jar to school would trigger panic among the administrators, never mind the scorpions. And kids being encouraged to catch scorpions? Unthinkable in terms of the risk to the kids. The point is that we're coddling our kids so much these days that we're isolating them from the fact that in real life, actions have consequences, and also, as in the case of Ahmed, stifling their ingenuity and their natural instinct to explore and push the boundaries. How did the school administrators, cops, and legislators get through their own childhoods without learning these lessons? Or maybe they've forgotten what being a kid is all about.

  29. ShelbyC says

    "There was a concern about safety, cops responded to it with due diligence."

    If there was a concern about safety, why did the teacher keep the clock in her desk? Is there any evidence that this clock looked more like a bomb than any other electronics project? Is there anything unusual about bringing an electronics project to school?

    @ZarroTsu, they suspend you for throwing snow nowadays?

  30. Dan says

    Andrew,

    Would a 14 year old white male have been treated like this?

    I know a white guy who, when a high school student (about 20 years ago), was at least suspended, and perhaps expelled, for having a length of PVC pipe with caps on both ends. He was using it to store CO2 cartridges for paintball guns (the guns themselves were not present), but the suspension/expulsion was for having a "simulated bomb". As in this case, he never said or did anything to suggest that the piece of pipe was anything other than a piece of pipe. Unlike this case (at least, what we know of this case), he'd had some prior disciplinary issues, which may well have affected the school's reaction. I don't recall the degree, if at all, to which law enforcement were involved.

    So the answer to your question appears to be, at least approximately, "yes".

  31. Guy says

    Static Variable,

    They never thought that it was a bomb. They at best thought it was something that was supposed to look like a bomb. If they thought it was a bomb the teacher wouldn't have confiscated it and kept it on her person, she would have evacuated the classroom and the school probably would have been put in some kind of lockdown.

    As to your question about whether the post would exist if the kid were white, there's two probabilities to consider: the chance that this would have happened if a white (and non-Muslim) kid brought a device like this to school, and the chance people would be talking about it if it did. I think it's pretty reasonable to suspect that the first probability would be substantially lower for a white kid, and I think the fact that it's reasonable to expect that justifies the fact that the second probability is likely higher for the non-white kid. There's nothing illegitimate about a story that appears to involve racism or other bigotry getting more attention than one that does not.

  32. DW says

    I agree with all you wrote about except that Ahmed is not without some fault. He said right in this video, https://youtu.be/3mW4w0Y1OXE that he KNEW it looked suspicious, so he put a strap around it instead of locking it. He should have let someone know he was bringing a suspicious looking device to school. He made a mistake and the overreaction to his mistake is what is wrong here.

  33. says

    I'm a 73-year-old webmaster, photographer, writer and editor for a small private K-8 school where this would never have happened. Why? Because of the teacher-student ratio and a culture where the teacher's first aim is to get to know each student individually. Now, then, leaping Down South, where the heck was the teacher? Oh – he/she was busy herding 5-7 classes per day of 30-40 students through the state-dictated curriculum mill. Good luck knowing what your brilliant young future engineer is up to. There's no quick fix for the stockyard atmosphere of public school, obviously. But small schools that model how education CAN be done provide an enlightening comparison. Our school website, by the way, is at http://www.livingwisdomschool.org

  34. Dan says

    DW,

    He should have let someone know he was bringing a suspicious looking device to school.

    He did–his engineering teacher.

  35. Terentia says

    I know a 13 year old white boy who was expelled because he found a weapon on the athletic field and promptly took it into the school office and turned it in. They claimed he was in violation of their "zero tolerance" policy. I call it it zero intelligence policy. The school said he should have left it where it was and just reported it. His response was that the person who made it could have come back for it and used it or someone else could have found it and injured themselves. 13 years old and he had more sense than all the idiots running his school. And yes, this does happen to white children. It just doesn't make the news because who cares if white kids are treated badly. According to current progressive ideology, they deserve it for being white. White privilege, you know.

  36. says

    @ Static Variable Ken, I disagree with you here. Being vigilant about threats to safety is not a culture of fear. There was a concern about safety, cops responded to it with due diligence. Should the principal ignore safety concerns? Should cops not do their job and respond to them?

    Yes, the cops should do their job and respond to these calls. Then they should do their job and say, "What the kid built is not dangerous, there is no cause for alarm." Ideally, the cops would apologize and encourage the kid to keep studying electronics…

    As citizens (and generally decent human beings) we have an obligation to resist idiocy, and we have an obligation to call out idiocy where we find it. The entire establishment of Irving, TX is composed of morons, and they need to be called out!

  37. Joe says

    @DW
    Except it wasn't a suspicious device. Wired just posted a picture of the object, and no one who has ever worked with an IED trigger would confuse it with a bomb or a hoax bomb. You have a power plug feeding into an AC to DC converter, as well as a second connection for a 9V battery. There's a main control board hooked up to the display and a second board that looks like a user interface board. Lastly you have wires running to a speaker. There's no output wires. There's nothing on this device that could be connected to an explosive load. It's literally as much of a bomb as the principle's cell phone is.

  38. Guy Who Looks Things Up says

    Nice going, Ken.

    The pickup truck towing the SHREDDER in your photo has a visible license plate. Now the LEOs are gonna track down the owner of that truck and throw him under a high security prison.

    All because of you.

  39. El Bearsidente says

    " But to be blunt, school administrators were generally not the kid who built his or her own clock at 14. (Cops were generally the kid who beat up the kid who built the clock.) "

    And the writers at popehat were the kids riding in the shortbus.

    As for the case, get the F over it. Even your imbecilic "president" had to weigh in on it.

    Chicago has had 341 homicides so far. The city has always more homicides than Germany, Austria and Switzerland COMBINED. Nobody cares. But this, this makes the Americunts bring out the hashtags.

  40. L says

    These days just bringing a glass jar to school would trigger panic among the administrators, never mind the scorpions.

    . . .

  41. says

    Jay is right, and furthermore it's not even just "bipartisan". The authoritarian/libertarian scale is a whole other axis from left/right. This bullshit is pure authoritarian war-on-the-unusual.

    In the US, the libertarians seem to generally skew right, whereas it's the opposite in the UK. Sadly, authoritarians are to be found in any political tribe, because mediocrity demands conformity to feel safe.

  42. TimothyAWiseman says

    This was a tragic situation. This kind of inquisitiveness in children should have been encouraged.

    @Static Variable
    I have to respectfully disagree. If an administrator had decided it needed careful examination and perhaps called in an expert to examine it, but then released the kid and the item when it was shown it was not a bomb, then it would have been laudable. A certain degree of caution is understandable and even expected.

    Had they sent him home with it immediately on the fear that someone else might see it and suspect a bomb, it might even have been a reasonable way to avoid causing other students fear. Had they evacuated the school until EOD could have arrived, but then released the kid when EOD confirmed it was not a bomb, then it would have been an overreaction but one truly born of an overabundance of caution.

    But instead they handled the item in a way that makes it clear they knew from the outset that it was not dangerous. They did not evacuate the school and did not (so far as has been reported) call out actual explosives experts. They instead detain and even arrest a kid who has not done anything wrong. A kid who should have been praised for doing something interesting.

  43. Owen says

    Re: "Would this have happened with a 14 year old white male?"

    Possibly. That probably depends on where in the country this occurred, how affluent the community this occurs in is, and whether or not the offender was a "good kid" or a "bad kid". As someone who was a "bad kid", I got suspended for ludicrous thing (e.g., informing a teacher than I had accidentally brought a pocket knife into school, as I had been using it at Boy Scouts the night before) whereas "good kids" were routinely got away with much worse (e.g., fighting, cussing at teachers).

    That having been said, I think its a fair question to ask whether or not this would have happened at this particular school with this particular police officer if the suspect's race was changed.

  44. Erik says

    In the bag that I take to school every day I have a pencil case with a circuit board, misc. electronics, wires, and even several 7-segment LED displays. I teach digital electronics at a university and use this for demonstrations.
    Clock circuits are fundamental to digital electronics (they may not beep and show numbers counting on a display, but they are there). So ever semester I am teaching how to design and build these circuits. Even to *gasp* foreign nationals. Things like this story make me worry, not about terrorism, but instead of being accused of teaching terrorism.

  45. DRJlaw says

    From CNN:

    The first [the child's father] heard of it was when he received a call from police, who said his son was being charged with having a hoax bomb, Mohamed said.

    He rushed to the police station where he saw his son "surrounded by five police and he was handcuffed," the father said. Ahmed told his father that he'd asked to phone him but the police told him that he could not because he was under arrest, Mohamed recounted.

    [Child's father:] "I asked if I could talk to or speak to my son and they told me, 'No, not right now' because they were taking his fingerprints and asking him questions," Mohamed said. …

    A reporter at a news conference Wednesday asked Chief Boyd about the allegations that Ahmed was told he could not call his father and was interrogated alone for some time at the station.

    "I'm not aware of that," the chief said, adding that the incident isn't being investigated.

    If that's doesn't set off your 5th amendment/Miranda warning alarm, nothing else on earth will. In many states, those acts are grounds for suppression.

  46. Quiet Lurcker says

    So, the administrator calls the cops. Cops come, look the device over and decided "there's no there there".

    Cops and administrator between them hassle the kid, trying to coerce a confession that flat isn't forthcoming.

    Why didn't the cops exercise some level of common sense here? Why did they arrest and haul him off? Why didn't they sit the administrator down and explain (in short sentences, and in words of two syllables or less, to accommodate the administrator's obvious and profound lack of intelligence or common sense) that there is no reason to take further action, and the clock should (must?) be returned to the student at the close of school?

    Why did the cops and administrator all expose themselves to legal liability for interrogating the kid without the parents and (if there is any truth to the reports) exacerbate their failings owing to comments made by one of the cops?

    My response? The district and the cops foot the bill for private schooling and living costs from today through a master's degree, however long that takes. Let them pay, and pay big to make it up to the kid and hopefully learn a valuable if painful lesson along the way.

  47. yodel says

    @Joe "no one who has ever worked with an IED trigger would confuse it with a bomb or a hoax bomb"

    Christ on a cracker how many people have actually worked on an IED trigger? Thanks for the lesson but your argument is so far removed reality it's pointless.

  48. Castaigne says

    @Frank:

    Welcome to Liberal Utopia where if you don't do the same thing as everyone else, you are guilty of some sort of crime, even if it's "just" a thought crime.

    Liberal utopia my fucking ass. Don't even TRY to claim we conservatives don't share the blame for this. I remember back when I was in high school. Every conservative adult of my acquaintance was zero-tolerancer. THREE STRIKES! NO DEVIATION! Gotta put the boot on these crims! This was Georgia and where I went to high school there wasn't a single liberal in sight.

    Now we have reaped what was sown back in the 1990s and people profess surprise, which causes me much mirth. THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE BOOMERS ASKED FOR. Boomers don't get to fucking complain when they get what they want.

    School administrators don't want to have to exercise critical thinking skills anymore.

    As the Boomer generation proved, if they exercise critical thinking skills, they will be sued to death. Who can blame them for becoming robots in self-defense? I'd do the same and so would you.

    ===

    @Oscar Gordon:

    I am waiting for the day when police suddenly realize that every engineer, biologist, chemist, & physicist has the knowledge & basic skills to build crude but damned effective WMDs.

    I've already heard disturbing things in that direction. Security officer at my company: "Did you know that 60% of all terrorists are engineers of some type?" *knowing nod* "Gotta keep an eye on what goes on in the facilties here. Gotta be a connection, you know."

  49. asdfsdf says

    America is a garbage country full of terrified, worthless manchildren.

    Dick Cheney tortured people because he was "too scared" to actually have decent ethics.

    Shite irrational country is shite and irrational, who knew?

  50. says

    There seem to be at least three times when some adult could have stepped up, said "oh, nevermind" and closed the issue with some degree of embarrassment shared to different adults, but no one being led away in handcuffs or being fingerprinted:

    1. When the English teacher asked what the device was, received the answer "it's a clock", and realized it clearly wasn't actually dangerous, because she chose to keep it with her. At this point the English teacher could have ended things with some minor personal embarrassment, but didn't.

    2. When the English teacher brought the matter to the principal, the principal could have dismissed it causing moderate embarrassment to the English teacher and some minor embarrassment to himself, but he chose instead to call the cops

    3. When the cops arrived, they could have investigated and concluded that there was nothing there, leading perhaps to moderate embarrassment for the principal and English teacher, but that would likely be covered up by suspending Ahmed for the week. They might face some minor embarrassment from fellow cops for being at the beck and call of a frightened-over-nothing school principal, but maybe not. I'm not sure how cop culture in Irving, TX works.

    In each case, the adults deliberately chose to live in the world where this geeky kid was dangerous over the world in which they might momentarily have to admit to having made a mistake. I am reminded strongly of Jackie at the Crossroads. It's the same phenomenon that gives us the belief in a satanic conspiracy inside Proctor & Gambel, much anti-vax and anti-GMO craziness, and the conviction that (despite all evidence to the contrary) providing abortions is somehow intensely lucrative. The adults deliberately chose the adrenaline rush of believing in monsters around every corner over a world where they'd have to say "I was wrong".

  51. MarkM says

    Since when are digital circuits a prohibited item to bring to school? How many of the kids in his school have cell phones with a digital timer/clock program? Anyone who knows what they're doing could fairly easily wire a trigger into such a cell phone. And that would be far scarier as it could be set off remotely by calling the phone or by using the timer. The suspension is entirely inappropriate. I wish the family the best of luck with their lawsuit against the district – in my view, it should be a slam dunk.

  52. Lokiwi says

    In case you missed it, the paranoid administrators have the full backing of their boss when it comes to doubling down. From Mayor Beth Van Duyne:

    The first concern for the Irving Independent School District and the Irving Police Department is always the safety of our children and Irving citizens. We are proud to have one of the safest cities in the country and that is due in large part to the diligence and professionalism of our police department. We are also proud that Irving ISD is nationally recognized by the National School Board Association and the Center for Digital Education for the school districts use of innovative technologies, STEM curriculum, and other practices that help our students excel in an advanced learning environment.

    I do not fault the school or the police for looking into what they saw as a potential threat. They have procedures to run when a possible threat or criminal act is discovered. They follow these procedures in the sole interest of protecting our children and school personnel. To the best of my knowledge, they followed protocol for investigating whether this was an attempt to bring a Hoax Bomb to a school campus. Following this investigation, Irving PD has stated no charges will be filed against the student. I hope this incident does not serve as a deterrent against our police and school personnel from maintaining the safety and security of our schools.

    So to be clear: when the school suspects that a clock might be a "hoax bomb" (even if nobody has ever said it was a bomb, the kid says it is a clock, and it is a clock), they should call the cops, have the student taken to juvenile detention, and suspend the student. Sounds reasonable.

  53. Chooch says

    Once the police were called, it was a foregone conclusion that he would be arrested. What they would be able to charge him with was dependent on the outcome of the interrogation.

    This event didn't happen in a vacuum. Ahmed's father made national headlines debating Terry Jones (the Quran burning dickhead) in 2011. The mayor of the city is a notorious anti-Muslim bigot, and at least one of the cops not only recognized him, but had apparently decided, or figured out in advance who it was.

    So this 14 year old kid was put in a room with FOUR police officers who ignored his request to call his father, interrogated him for several hours (from 6th period to 3 pm) with questions like "So, you tried to make a bomb?" accusations ("it looks like a movie bomb to me"), threats of expulsion from the principal, demands for "broader" justification when he refused to admit to anything other than "It's a clock" . The whole thing reeks of them trying to intimidate the kid into saying something that they could use to justify piling on more serious terrorism based charges.

  54. jtf says

    I'm reminded of the Star Simpson incident, where a naked circuit board with LEDs was suddenly a TOP TERRORIST PRIORITY and when confronted with the clear evidence that the device on a (dark-skinned) woman's hoodie was a torso Lite Brite, authorities doubled down and threw the book at her anyway so that they could justify their own paranoid response. And of course, much of the public decided it was a great time for anti-intellectual tarring and feathering of a Boston student, only for the case against her to utterly collapse and be quietly dismissed a year later.

    There are now many more mitigating factors in this case than in that particular one, but the pattern is the same: at each stage, groups of people had a choice to call things off and suffer mild embarrassment or escalate, and they chose escalation. This kid is lucky that he didn't have the entire country's national security apparatus thrown at him.

    I'm reminded of Heller:
    "Clevinger had a mind and Lieutenant Scheisskopf had noticed that people with minds tended to get pretty smart at times. Such men were dangerous, and even the new cadet officers whom Clevinger had helped into office were eager to give damning testimony against him. The case against Clevinger was open and shut. The only thing missing was something to charge him with….

    "Clevinger was guilty, of course, or he would not have been accused, and since the only way to prove it was to find him guilty, it was their patriotic duty to do so."

  55. Krogerfoot says

    Nearly every public servant in this story should be fucked, broken, and driven across the land, but especial contempt should be reserved for the principal.

    A principal's duty is to protect his students. Letting an innocent 14-year-old be hauled away by the police is an astonishing dereliction of that responsibility. Cops are hammers and the world is Nails-R-Us—wrecking lives is a byproduct of the way they operate. The principal should have risked his life and liberty to intervene in this arrest. The only way Ahmed should have been allowed to leave the school in handcuffs was if the principal went with him in handcuffs too. That wouldn't have made the principal a hero—it would be the very least his job requires of him.

  56. spinetingler says

    HOMESCHOOL YOUR KIDS, PEOPLE.

    No, send them to public school where they will learn proper capitalization rules.

  57. Output Coupler says

    Did the putative adults pestering Ahmed do it because his name is Ahmed Mohamed and he's brown? Maybe. “Yup. That’s who I thought it was,” said one officer mysteriously upon seeing him.

    It's only mysterious if you're being intentionally obtuse. The rest of us will call it obvious, and ineffective, profiling.

    "Bomb scare? Must be the brown kid."

    Nothing mysterious at all.

  58. Gina DeMarco says

    "In his head, Ahmed lives in an idealized world he learned about in robotics club: a world where individuality and curiosity and initiative are appreciated. "

    Idealized world?

    This kid's father got in a plane and flew from the safety of Texas back to Sudan to run for president against Omar al-Bashir, the dictator who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide, specifically for slaughtering people whose skin wasn't white enough.

    Twice.

    This makes Ahmed's dad quite bad-ass in my book (and possibly a little nuts) but in any case unlikely to take shit from a bunch of Texans.

    I can't imagine that Ahmed lives in an idealized world by a long stretch, and his world is actually much grimmer than the one imposed on him by the administrators at his school and the small town cops that arrested him. Though I agree he would have of course expected better from these people.

    It is sad that his family left a boiling cauldron of racial turmoil only to enter a simmering pot, but I am glad for the support he has received, especially from the STEM community where a man is measured not by the color of his skin but by the impact factor of his journal articles.

  59. NotPiffany says

    Dan, I know a white guy who, a bit over twenty years ago, brought a paint ball gun to a high school around a thirty minute drive from the one in this story. He wanted to show it to our German teacher, so he brought it to the classroom during lunch. The teacher wasn't there (fourth period was the one he had off that year). He hung around the classroom to wait. Another student saw it through the window in the door and freaked. The guy with the paint ball gun pointed it at the student and shot the door's window. He was never disciplined for it.

    So between us, we have a story of a white kid who didn't do anything wrong but got suspended (at least), and a story of a white kid who absolutely did do something wrong and didn't get so much as a scolding. These two stories happened within five years of each other (assuming your "twenty years" is accurate). I don't think we're at the point where anecdote becomes data yet.

    On another note, having lived in the area from the late 1980's until last year, I can say without a doubt that anyone who thinks Irving, TX is a liberal anything needs a dictionary.

  60. dan says

    I agree with everything you wrote until the final paragraph.

    So called "educator", *tosses into the chipper* *BRRAAAAAAP* *GLUTCH*

    School administrators, *toss* *BRRAAAAAAP* *GLUTCH*

    Local cops, *toss* *BRRAAAAAAP* *GLUTCH*

    Use the fertilizer produced to plant a flower garden.

  61. The Baker says

    I already expressed my comments on how unintelligent the school and police are elsewhere.
    If you look closely at the "device" it appears that the kid took apart a
    alarm clock and put the guts in a pencil case. Not to take anything away
    from his inquisitiveness, all the press about him "building" a clock seems
    to give him a bit too much credit. Hey it is great, I took things apart; repackaged and re-purposed them when I was a kid too.

  62. Castaigne says

    @Daniel Martin:

    There seem to be at least three times when some adult could have stepped up

    1) Required reporting in accordance to policy.
    2) Required reporting in accordance to policy.
    3) Unknown if cops are given that kind of leeway in that jurisdiction.

    The adults deliberately chose the adrenaline rush of believing in monsters around every corner over a world where they'd have to say "I was wrong".

    I would say with at least the educational personnel that they really have no choice in the matter. Personal example:

    Back in 1993, a friend of mine in Boy Scouts took his backpack with him on a camping trip. He accidentally left his Swiss Army knife in the backpack when he went back to school on Monday. In German class, he's putting his books away and it falls out of the backpack in front of the teacher.

    Now, the German teacher was a cool guy, and he knows this wasn't intentional or anything, but he's got to follow policy – or it's job loss time. So, it goes:

    The German teacher is REQUIRED to escort the kid and the "weapon" to the Vice-Principal's office.
    The Vice-Principal is REQUIRED to issue an immediate suspension and contact the kid's parents to pick him up. If not available, he is REQUIRED to hand the kid over to the police.
    The Vice-Principal is then REQUIRED to submit a request to the County Board of Education to have the kid expelled over having a weapon in the school.
    The County BOE is REQUIRED to then have a closed-door trial over the case, with the board members voting on whether the kid stays or not.

    Failure to do any of these REQUIREDs results in being terminated for the German teacher and the Vice-Principal, and considerable foofarah on the part of the County BOE, who instituted the policy in the first place. And this was in 1993. Think about that.

    The policies are much more stringent today. And I don't know about elsewhere, but here in the South it's the County BOE that puts it together.

  63. TimothyAWiseman says

    @Castaigne

    I have not exactly reviewed the district policy for that particular district, but I very much doubt that required reporting was at play for either the teacher or the administration. They would certainly have been required to report any weapons, but it is quite clear from both their actions and their later statements that they did not believe this was a weapon.

    As for the police, again I have not reviewed the policies in that district, but in general police are given wide discretion in whether or not to effectuate an arrest where they were not directed by the courts or the prosecutor's office to effectuate that arrest.. This is particular true in a case where there are no exigent circumstances. Their actions and later statements clearly show they did not perceive an actual threat and there was no indication that the teenager was likely to flee their jurisdiction if they decided to investigate further or confer with the prosecutors.

    This is very different from your example with the Swiss Army Knife because most people will clearly consider a Swiss Army Knife to be a weapon and Knives are often specifically listed as banned items for many schools. I have yet to see a school list a clock as a banned item and considering it a weapon is a major stretch. Also, even in your story, there was no arrest and no discussion of prosecution.

  64. Sad Panda says

    @ Castaigne

    Now, the German teacher was a cool guy, and he knows this wasn't intentional or anything, but he's got to follow policy – or it's job loss time.

    I hear what you're saying, there's clearly some stupid rules out there. But ideally the German teacher would say to no one in particular, "please secure all unnecessary tools in your bag and take your seat, class is about to begin." And then deny seeing anything on the 1% chance that some troll reported the incident.

    If the student was carrying a lunchbox, any cutlery in it would be at least as dangerous as a Swiss Army knife, and much quicker to deploy.

  65. ShelbyC says

    "If you look closely at the "device" it appears that the kid took apart a
    alarm clock and put the guts in a pencil case. "

    Looks to me like parts from electronics hobby places designed for this type of educational project.

  66. barry says

    As I know from TV news, many terrorist bombs look like backpacks. Last week I drove past a school and noticed all the kids had them. I did not report this to the police, but from now on I'm driving the other way home.

  67. Jordan says

    Would a 14 year old white male have been treated like this?

    Probably:

    Alex Stone is just one example. Here are some others:

    “Little Boy Suspended for Pointing Finger Like a Laser Gun.”

    “School Suspends Kid for Twirling Pencil & Subjects him to 5-HOUR Evaluation!”

    “Kid Twirls a Pencil in Class, N.J. Threatens to Take Him From His Dad and Requires Blood and Urine Testing.” (Pencil-twirling: the hidden dangers of America’s schools, evidently.)

    “Girl Writes About Pot in Her Diary, School Reads It and Suspends Her All Year.”

    “Felony weapons charge for student who brought fishing supplies to school.”

    “Hearing Examiner: School Was Right to Suspend Little Boy Who Chewed Pop-Tart Into Shape of Gun.”

    “Toy gun made of paper gets kid tossed from school.”

    “Drawing of Cartoon Bomb Gets Middle School Student Suspended in South Carolina.”

  68. NickM says

    This isn't paranoia.
    Paranoia would have resulted in the Bomb Squad being called in. It might have even given us video of a robot blowing up the clock.
    Paranoia wouldn't bother me all that much. Sure we'd all get a good laugh out of people who thought a clock might be a bomb and freaked out about it, but the adults involved would at least be acting with acceptable motives.
    This is downright evil. The student says it's not a bomb. Nobody came forward saying that he told them it was a bomb. Somebody (whether administrator or cop) had already figured out it wasn't a bomb. It's supposed to be the end of the story right there. They knew there wasn't a crime. Yet they arrested and interrogated a minor without permitting a call to his parents or a lawyer. And the school administrators seem pleased with it.

  69. Jordan says

    Ken,
    This really has nothing to do with the school and everything to do with racism in Texas.

    No. While racism seems likely to have played a part, this case is a clear indictment of the zero-tolerance, "if it saves just one life" security-state bullshit mentality that has overtaken schools throughout the country.

  70. mrmdk says

    You know, Ken… If you keep up this business of delving into such things as individual liberty, start recognizing the evil of power for the sake of power, you're going to transform yourself into a constitutional libertarian. You know, like me, one of those people you think is a radical right-winger.

    Because, if you think critically, you will eventually discover that the whole process that leads you to think that freedom of speech is important, will eventually lead you to think that freedom of ownership, individual beliefs, and overall, the supremacy of the individual over herd-think mentality will start to make sense, and it'll transform your thinking to the point where you realize that all that "reasonableness" think you is making you be "slightly left of center" is really as dumb as it appears to be in the story you narrated above.

    Oh, and yes, ALL of this about runaway authoritarianism and how dumb the people with power actually are.

  71. Total says

    Probably:

    Excellent! Anecdotes _always_ prove things, especially from articles dedicated to exactly that point.

    Next up — a range of anecdotes demonstrating that white men do, in fact, go to jail as well.

  72. rpenner says

    It looks very much like a re-purposed alarm clock which is why it has such clean PCB board lines and has both AC power supply and terminal for a 9-volt battery backup.

    How can it look like a movie bomb when movie bombs have the LED displays on the outside of the casing?

    OMG, yes, it looks exactly like a bomb except for any of the elements an actual bomb — like an explosive charge, detonation leads, anti-disarming measures, etc. OMG, yes, he acted exactly like a suspicious brown person except for the fact of not doing anything suspicious. OMG, yes, we need to send a warning to these people bringing easily identifiable hobby electronics because someday soon someone could bring the inside of one of those 1970's transistor radios to school, and those things don't have spaces between the components. Someday soon, someone is going to drive a unfamiliar make and model of car through this town and you people are going to try and claim that's not probable cause for arrest and in-depth background check.

    Won't somebody please think of the children?

  73. Robert says

    Total says

    Probably:

    Excellent! Anecdotes _always_ prove things, especially from articles dedicated to exactly that point.

    Next up — a range of anecdotes demonstrating that white men do, in fact, go to jail as well.

    It's anecdotal, sure, but if you have an absolutist premise like "a white kid wouldn't have been treated like this!!", then showing instances where white kids have been treated exactly like this more or less destroys the premise, no?

  74. says

    You know, Ken… If you keep up this business of delving into such things as individual liberty, start recognizing the evil of power for the sake of power, you're going to transform yourself into a constitutional libertarian.

    Will I transform into someone petulant that people agree with me but NOT ENOUGH? God I hope not.

  75. says

    As a child in the 1970's, I used to build what would now be known as stun guns and take them to school. I was very … discreet in shocking people, and probably hit half the student body of the 4th grade before they caught me and confiscated about a dollar's worth of components I had pilfered from my dad's electronics company.

    School staff and my parents correctly saw that hey, this kid needs to be challenged, and definitely has something nerdy in his future, and everyone encouraged me towards the sciences. I grew up poor, but there were always mentors, some of them who are still with me decades later.

    So, how much brain power are we flushing down the toilet as a society? Gifted kids like this stand out like a sore thumb to anyone halfway paying attention. And most of the time when you don't reach a kid like that, society loses in a quantifiable way.

    All because of a bunch of xenophobic, let's-help-America-by-defiling-what-it-stands-for, misguided, hee haw motherfuckers who can't see past their own hatred and ignorance. Thankfully there's a few non-hillbilly states who see this kind of talent and move it to the front of the line.

    If we really want America to be great, then we need to encourage greatness in every single person who lives here, without exception. Even in Texas. And we need to collectively evolve. Ignorance is bliss, and bliss feels good, but it's holding us back.

    The Onion put it best: "Residents advised to stay indoors a few years until social progress is made."

  76. Sheriff Fatman says

    As usual, the Daily Mash has the best coverage:

    American teenager arrested for interest in science

    A TEXAN boy has been arrested for doing science.

    Ahmed Mohamed, 14, was apprehended after he produced a small, time-telling ‘clock’ device, startling his teachers who had never seen anything like it.

    Police chief Bill McKay added: “There’s plenty of good reasons why science was outlawed here in 2004.”

  77. Frank says

    I long for the days when all a geek had to worry about was wedgies and swirlies from the jocks, not harsh questioning from superannuated pedagogy majors and handcuffs from cops with room-temperature IQs.

    The biggest bullies in the public schools all receive government direct deposit.

  78. mcinsand says

    I would have to disagree with assertions that this has anything to do with zero tolerance or Texas. Zero tolerance only applies if the school has a zero tolerance for timekeeping devices. This wasn't made to look like a destructive device, it was not presented as a destructive device, and no person familiar with such would have taken it as a destructive device. This was a matter of a special alloy of ignorance and stupidity (and the two are subtly different), where a person saw something unfamiliar and assumed that it was dangerous. Granted, this is also where race may have been a factor; there are xenophobes everywhere, which leads me to the next disagreement.

    Anyone that thinks this is an issue confined to any particular state or region within the country is more than a little naïve. I see this especially as a lily-white that has traveled a bit. Too many bigots in the northeast, northwest, midwest, and southwest have assumed that, since I'm from the southeast, I *must* have some sort of prejudice against whatever ethnic group they look down on.

  79. Castaigne says

    @Timothy A Wiseman:

    They would certainly have been required to report any weapons

    Or, as the letter issued by the school to the parents indicates, anything that even MIGHT be considered suspicious. At all. From further information today, it seems that the school considers browns to be inherently suspicious anyhow.

    Also, even in your story, there was no arrest and no discussion of prosecution.

    Well heck no. It was 1993. (Or 1992? I forget exactly. One of those.) Had it happened in 2002, I have no doubt there would have been full SWAT team deployment, complete with people yelling "SET UP THE KILL ZONE! WE'VE GOT A TANGO BRAVO ALPHA!" or similar such nonsense.

    ===

    @Sad Panda:

    But ideally the German teacher would say to no one in particular, "please secure all unnecessary tools in your bag and take your seat, class is about to begin." And then deny seeing anything on the 1% chance that some troll reported the incident.

    And would have been ratted on. And would have been fired. And would have lost his very invested pension.

    You don't risk your retirement for these types of issues. It's just not smart and it shouldn't be expected.

    ===

    @NickM:

    Yet they arrested and interrogated a minor without permitting a call to his parents or a lawyer. And the school administrators seem pleased with it.

    And now we know why.

  80. Aaron says

    @El Bearsidente

    And the writers at popehat were the kids riding in the shortbus.

    If so, then it's impressive Ken got from there through Harvard Law and to the head of one of the most enjoyable geek blogs on the net.

  81. Matthew Cline says

    Am I the only one who thinks Obama shouldn't have said anything, so as to avoid drawing any more negative attention to the kid?

  82. Paradigm Spider says

    @Matthew Cline

    Fuck that shit. The kid was already in the spotlight. Reaching out like that is what a leader should be doing.

    @Mark Wing
    I don't know about the 70's and what appears to have been a "boys will be boys" decision by the authority figures in your case, but going around a school shocking people with a homemade electronic device isn't the sort of thing that any responsible adult just lets some kid get away with. Frankly, I'm surprised the school didn't tell you to GTFO and never come back.

  83. En Passant says

    mcinsand says September 17, 2015 at 7:13 am:


    This was a matter of a special alloy of ignorance and stupidity (and the two are subtly different), …

    Yeah, the former might be curable. But the latter definitely isn't.

  84. En Passant says

    Paradigm Spider says September 17, 2015 at 8:24 am:


    I don't know about the 70's and what appears to have been a "boys will be boys" decision by the authority figures in your case, but going around a school shocking people with a homemade electronic device isn't the sort of thing that any responsible adult just lets some kid get away with. Frankly, I'm surprised the school didn't tell you to GTFO and never come back.

    You might not have survived the 1950s. In those days we brought knives to elementary school and played mumblety-peg at recess. Played tackle football too, and played marbles and tops for keeps. And girls played too if they wanted to. Handshake shockers were just a passing joke.

    In high school in the late 1950s, we brought guns for squirrel, dove and deer hunting after school. Just checked 'em in at the principal's office before classes, and checked 'em out when school let out.

    Thanks to teachers and cops unions laying the groundwork for him, it looks like Osama Bin Laden won on 9/11/2001. He succeeded into turning a once great nation that defeated evil dictators into a totalitarian state of pusillanimous wimps and badge lickers.

  85. Sad Panda says

    @Castaigne

    And would have been ratted on. And would have been fired. And would have lost his very invested pension.

    Yeah, whatever. You can add any claims you want I guess, it's your hypothetical.

    If you think people don't successfully ignore bullshit rules several times a day, you're reality challenged.

  86. says

    It's true that bigotry is everywhere. But I don't buy that it's the same everywhere. One of the key differences is that you'll be called on it about 100% of the time in northwest cities like Seattle or Portland. This is the wrong area to be if you don't like diversity, so almost everyone is tolerant. The few bigots here mostly suffer in silence. Portland's city motto is "Keep Portland Weird."

    One of my younger brothers was on a city bus in Portland a couple months ago, where some big bully asshole told an old black lady to give up her seat because he was tired or something. When she wouldn't do it, the guy used a couple racial slurs, at which point everyone on the bus rose up against him and basically made him sit in the corner until he got off. Tell me that would happen in Irving, Texas. I'll just call BS in advance.

    But hey, Texas is only ranked 39th in education, so they can probably afford to completely disenfranchise a few thousand nerds of the wrong color before they catch up with Mississippi.

  87. Innocentbystander says

    It was soon after 9-11 that one of my student, a Immigrant from Iraq, came to me in a panic. He worked as a stockboy and realized that he had brought a box cutter to school in his jacket pocket. He was terrified about what was going to happen to him. I told him not to be afraid, to give it to me and I would act as an intermediary with my principal. My principal said "He brought it to you and gave it too you right?" I replied "Yes" Her response was "Then take the razor blade out and give it back at the end of the day and tell him to to check his pockets before he leaves for school." Common Sense is a beautiful thing.

  88. Quite Possibly A Cat says

    This isn't paranoia. Paranoia would be evacuating the school because a they thought it might be a bomb. Paranoia would be calling the bomb squad.

    This was just asshattery.

  89. OrderoftheQuaff says

    I know these schools exist in America, where you actually get dumber throughout the course of a school day, and I think we found one.

  90. Greg says

    Surprised no one has posted these examples yet of a bunch of white kids who were not arrested for bringing clocks to school, bolstering the argument that Ahmed wouldn't have been treated like this if he were white:

    http://gawker.com/7-kids-not-named-mohamed-who-brought-homemade-clocks-to-1730999866

    And then, there's yours truly, who wrote a short story in which someone–who turned out to be me–killed all my 8th grade teachers in creative ways. My English teacher enjoyed it, and I got an A. (I'm white.) Significantly more threatening than a clock.

    ALSO OF NOTE: Context matters. Ahmed apparently had good grades, no record of trouble, and was polite to folk. Any principal worth his salt takes that into consideration when evaluating situations. The fact that this one didn't speaks volumes.

  91. Charles says

    For those asking if a white kid who was 14 would be treated the same way. I suggest you look up David Hahn where he built an actual breeder reactor in his parents shed. Turned it into a superfund site later and to date hasn't been out of trouble since then. He was arrested in 2007 for stealing smoke detectors to get the radioactive source in them for further experimenting and lately came back into the news in trying to develop a light bulb using irradiated sources from other news sources on him.

    That said from what I have read of this issue. I would say that there is probably blame on both sides of the issue here. First off the kid should be applauded by everyone for making the clock. Yet, I understand the only reason this became an issue is that the timer in this clock started to beep in a class that wasn't a science class. So I have to ask the question is why didn't he his science teacher keep the project?
    To quote a Dallas News story:

    He showed it to his engineering teacher first thing Monday morning and didn’t get quite the reaction he’d hoped for.

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

    Then to add into it he took it too his English class
    Again the Dallas News Story

    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 brought his invention up to show her afterward.

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

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

    Which leads me to ask why did he show it to her?

    The flip side is of course the teachers over reacted to this and instead of doing the right thing like keep it and talk to him about it, they first told him to not talk about it and then called the cops. As if the science teacher knew this was going to be an issue, which makes me suspect that there were other issues in this school with respect towards this kid. Then the English teacher complained about it and then started the over reaction phase of this. Where if the administration was smart they wouldn't have continued down the path of stupid. Yet, I think they were on autopilot with regards to this incident. Oh and for reference here is the offical clubs of the school and there isn't an engineering club, unless you count the Hispanic Engineering club. So otherwise there is just a science club. Not to excuse everything that has happened. Just to say that again there have to be other issues with this school than might meet the initial review.

    So what is the truth? Is it that Iriving Texas is a hotbed of Islamophobia or it is that we have stupid administration folks causing issues by not having an issue or do we have a student forcing an issue because he has run across stupid kids (or stupid adults) and wants to make a point about some racism here? Or is it a mix of these and other issues? I want to start to apply Occum's Razor to this and some of Hanlon's Razor as well.

  92. Eric Atkinson says

    When I was 14, I was building digital clocks. That was 1972. Now some kid takes one out of its case and put it in another case and is considered a rocket scientist?

  93. says

    Am I the only one who first thought “Yup. That’s who I thought it was,” was the cop's observation that Ahmed was exactly the sort of 4-eyed faggot poindexter he used to bully in school? Of course I read the story hours before it went national and the SJW's put their spin all over it.

    I am amused so many are so sure of the ethnic, cultural and political makeup of Irving, Texas. I've never knowingly been in that Dallas/Fort Worth suburb but the demographics are almost exactly what I expected. 33% foreign born, 31% non-Hispanic white, 12% Black, 14% Asian.. probably a lot more diverse than where most of the progressive racialist commenters live.

  94. says

    Eric Atkinson says

    September 17, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    When I was 14, I was building digital clocks. That was 1972. Now some kid takes one out of its case and put it in another case and is considered a rocket scientist?

    Did you paint the numbers on the flip cards by hand?

  95. C. S. P. Schofield says

    "Would a 14 year old white male have been treated like this?"

    White kids get caught in stupid "Zero Tolerance" policies with some regularity. REASON magazine tells those stories, and the FREE RANGE KIDS site touches on them from time to time. Did racism play some part here? Probably. But the "Zero Tolerance" plague is the core issue.

    The kid in Canada who died because the school's "Zero Tolerance" policy on drugs was inappropriately applied to asthma inhalers was caucasian. Make of that what you will. I confess myself astonished that his mother hasn't murdered the principal of that school with an axe. I would have if it were my child.

    If you assume that every public school administrator is a mouth-breathing idiot who got a degree in Education because the academic standards in the Ethnic Studies program were to high for him to hack, you will not be wrong often enough to matter. I grew up in Academia (father was a History Professor) and it was simply an accepted feature of the landscape that at any University that has an Education program, the worst instructors and the dimmest students will cluster there.

  96. Shieldfoss says

    @mrmdk: " If you keep up this business of delving into such things as individual liberty, start recognizing the evil of power for the sake of power, you're going to transform yourself into a constitutional libertarian."

    Allow me to rephrase:

    "If you keep up this business of delving into such things as individual liberty, start recognizing the evil of power for the sake of power, you're going to forget coordination problems are real and the tragedy of the commons was named because of a real problem"

    The conclusion does not seem to follow from the premise.

  97. Jordan says

    "If you keep up this business of delving into such things as individual liberty, start recognizing the evil of power for the sake of power, you're going to forget coordination problems are real and the tragedy of the commons was named because of a real problem"

    Libertarianism does not preclude collective action or government.

  98. GuestPoster says

    Saw an interesting point earlier, and had to agree with it. The cops should be heavily disciplined, that is obvious. They were right to show up – that's their job. They were wrong to arrest the kid. Part of their job is figuring out when an arrest is and is not warranted. If they couldn't tell that the kid was doing nothing wrong, they should at the VERY least go back to the academy for a few years.

    But more importantly? The powers that be at the school need to be thrown in jail. After all, EITHER they just found a bomb and chose not to evacuate the school, in which case they willfully endangered quite a few children, OR they knew it wasn't a bomb and chose to summon police on false pretenses, potentially ending the life (metaphorically or actually) of the target. Either way: they did something incredibly wrong, and need to pay for that.

  99. Castaigne says

    @Matthew Cline:

    Am I the only one who thinks Obama shouldn't have said anything, so as to avoid drawing any more negative attention to the kid?

    Nah, it's an absolute win for Obama. The only people who are going to have a problem with it are people who hated the kid anyway. See Free Republic for details.

    ===

    @Sad Panda:

    If you think people don't successfully ignore bullshit rules several times a day, you're reality challenged.

    I'm sure they do when they can get away with it. There are bullshit rules at my employment I'd love to ignore. Why don't I? Because unless I'm sitting in a toilet stall, I am monitored, watched, and recorded.

    I damn well wouldn't risk my retirement for the sake of one kid.

  100. Craig says

    Will the school administrators be prosecuted under Texas's official oppression statute? (They knew the clock was not a bomb.) I am going to start holding my breath right now.

  101. Cromwell Descendant says

    Homework for people blaming Libraaals: What is the standard expected American "liberal" response to this type of situation? What values do we hold that we would talk about during a situation like this? Please read at least 3 "liberal" mainstream American blogs that discuss what happened to Ahmed, and write a report on how the values they discuss differ from the values you projected onto them.

  102. Cromwell Descendant says

    "Libertarianism does not preclude collective action or government."

    There is a lot of assumption there. The problem is that without caveat it is horse shit. It isn't bull, because a person who says this knows it isn't true before they say it, and they know that educated people will know the difference. But they say it anyways.

    The type of things that Libertarianism permits that are part of "government" are only a tiny subset of what the word "government" encompasses. Libertarianism rejects the majority of what Government does, including for example Government in my State where we have Direct Democracy. For Libertarianism to be the ruling philosophy, to say "we are a Libertarian State now" would require removing the vast majority of government functions that we've voted on, that are what we wanted and chose. It is simply misleading and dishonest to say, without caveat, that "Libertarianism does not preclude… government." It does, because the word government already has meaning. And Libertarianism would not need a simple accommodation; using it as a political philosophy and basing actual real-world changes on that philosophy would require shutting down most of what government does; by force. In the same way that Libertarianism doesn't care if a majority votes one way or another, the philosophy also has no way to accommodate the huge majority who favors existing Constitutional government. Indeed, Libertarianism doesn't hold up and idealize only changes that would be permitted by the US or State Constitutions. In fact the vast majority of Libertarian solutions to things (anything) would require removal of the US Constitution.

  103. says

    Terrrentia wrote:

    I know a 13 year old white boy who was expelled because he found a weapon on the athletic field and promptly took it into the school office and turned it in. They claimed he was in violation of their "zero tolerance" policy. I call it it zero intelligence policy. The school said he should have left it where it was and just reported it. His response was that the person who made it could have come back for it and used it or someone else could have found it and injured themselves. 13 years old and he had more sense than all the idiots running his school. And yes, this does happen to white children. It just doesn't make the news because who cares if white kids are treated badly. According to current progressive ideology, they deserve it for being white. White privilege, you know.

    Was this sensible 13 year old handcuffed, detained, interrogated without parental consent? I'm going to say, just guessing, "no, he was suspended by the school, period."

    That is the white privilege in action. Chances are, had Ahmed done what your white 13 old did, Ahmed would have been not just handcuffed, detained, and interrogated without parental consent–he would likely been charged with possession of a fire arm with intent to harm, or some such.

  104. Hasdrubal says

    @yodel "Christ on a cracker how many people have actually worked on an IED trigger? Thanks for the lesson but your argument is so far removed reality it's pointless."

    Irving, TX has a bomb squad staffed at the same level as their DWI task force. There are certainly people on the police force that have formal training on identifying IEDs on the force, and I would be very surprised if there weren't at least the opportunity for patrolmen to get some basic training on how to identify an IED.

    Also, if you can be guilty of "creating a hoax bomb" simply by someone, anyone, _thinking_ what you have is a bomb, then it's impossible to not break that law. People have confused sweatshirts, backpacks, even shoes for bombs. With enough fear and ignorance, _anything_ can be confused for a bomb.

  105. Jordan says

    There is a lot of assumption there. .

    No there is not. The only assumption there is that the forms of government permissible under libertarianism are suitable to deal with "coordination problems" and the "tragedy of the commons". Anything else you read into it is purely your problem.

    And Libertarianism would not need a simple accommodation; using it as a political philosophy and basing actual real-world changes on that philosophy would require shutting down most of what government does; by force.

    Yeah, so what? Responding to force with force is not inherently immoral.

    In the same way that Libertarianism doesn't care if a majority votes one way or another, the philosophy also has no way to accommodate the huge majority who favors existing Constitutional government.

    You're right, I don't care if a huge majority wants to arrest kids for making clocks.

  106. Paul. says

    We're expected to give cops and administrators the benefit of the doubt. I don't: I think they are like any other human beings. There are some good and some bad. Some care, and some are doing what they do to increase their own power.

    Then where are the good ones in this situation? Where are the good teachers standing up to the administrators and the cops?

  107. Chooch says

    Part of their job is figuring out when an arrest is and is not warranted. If they couldn't tell that the kid was doing nothing wrong, they should at the VERY least go back to the academy for a few years.

    They figured out that he had done nothing wrong within minutes of their arrival. Their (likely illegal) interrogation wasn't about whether or not he *should* have been arrested, it was about how many incriminating things they could trick or intimidate him into saying to justify the arrest that they had already decided was going to happen and amplify the bullshit charges they were going to lay on him.

    A lot of people are comparing this to other cases of Zero Tolerance policies run amok, and while that may have played a part in the actions of school employees, the actions of the cops were pure, unadulterated, authoritarian abuse. Was it motivated by ethnic/religious bigotry? It's certainly arguable, but I say the evidence points squarely to "Hell yes, though maybe not exclusively"

  108. albert says

    @Ken,
    I really wish you wouldn't bring up such contentious issues. With commenters tossing labels like 'liberal' and 'conservative' around with unconsidered abandon*. All folks have a helping of douchebaginess in their makeups. As Pappy used to say: "There's a little asshole in each of us."

    Do I feel for a 14-year old Muslim kid with a politically active dad in Irving, TX? Yes, I do. I also feel for a 14-year old kid in Gaza who watched his parents blown up in their 'living' room.

    Our problem is systemic, and indeed, world-wide. Look at the hand-wringing going on in Europe over the Migrant Crisis. I don't see the MSM anywhere acknowledging the root cause, just how to stop the blow-back. I don't see our MSM acknowledging the absurdities of Police State policies, put in place by our psychotic (insert any label here; they're all the same) drones in Washington, either.

    Perhaps I can find some smart, objective, academics who are studying this?

    Fascist states tend to explode into anarchy, or implode from external forces. Are we going to witness a new outcome? I fear the 'cure', if there is one, may be worse than the 'disease'.

    . .. . .. oh

  109. CapnObvious says

    Playing Devil's Advocate for a second here…

    Even if they knew it wasn't a bomb, doesn't it matter what Ahmed's intentions were? And given the police are not psychic mindreaders, even if they did assume the worst of him, it's not an entirely farfetched assumption:

    If the police suspected he intended to scare people with a "suitcase bomb", (and let's face it, the other 12 year old's couldn't easily tell the difference the way a trained IED technician could) that would be a legitimate crime for them to investigate and prosecute.

    Let's also be realistic that the police shouldn't just let a suspect go at their first conclusory denial of wrongdoing. If they thought he intended to scare people, and he said "I didn't mean to scare anyone" the police don't just go "oh ok, on your way then". From what I've read, the Engineering teacher that was expecting the project wasn't readily available to confirm his story.

    The "it's obviously not a bomb so it must have been racism" excuse is a straw man that ignores what the kid was actually suspected of… trying to scare people (successfully or not).
    I'm not saying he ever threatened anyone, but it's not absurd to think that a kid who is trying to cause a scare and is unable to do so via hoax may later escalate his game to get the desired reaction, which is a real concern.

    That's obviously not what happened here, but the police can't know that without some investigation… so really we're just quibbling over degrees.

  110. MDT says

    @CapnObvious

    Nobody has said the police should not have investigated once they were called. They have to.

    They should not have Violated Parental Rights by refusing to allow the boy to call his legal guardian.

    They should not have arrested him for a crime they had zero evidence of (bomb hoaxing). There's no reason in the world they can't think he was hoaxing. There's no reason in the world they can't think he was lying. But believing something is not having proof of something, and you don't get to arrest people because you think they might have possibly been planning to commit a crime at some future point.

    What should have happened was :

    A) English teacher asks what it is, is told it's a clock. Tell the kid to make it stop beeping and disrupting class. Discipline child verbally for not removing batteries.
    B) Assuming English teacher is a moron (which they seem to be from the story), the Principle should have asked the boy what it was, and what his intentions were. Double check with science teacher, who backs up that boy showed it to him as a clock and the teacher praised him on it. Verbally, in private, reprimand the English Teacher for disrupting class and school over nothing.
    C) Assuming the English teacher and the Principle are both morons (which they seem to be from the story), the police should absolutely investigate the issue, question the boy, question the science teacher, and then tell the boy that sometimes adults don't think so well, and in private verbally castigate the English Teacher and Principle and explain the consequences of filing false crime reports.
    D) Assuming the English teacher, the Principle, and the Cops are all morons (which they seem to be from the story), the mayor should call the police chief in his office, tear a stripe off their hide. Then call the School District head into his office, tear another stripe off. Publicly apologize to the student, and initiate some processes to find out where things went off the rails.
    E) Assuming all of the above are morons (which they seem to be from the story), media firestorm.

  111. MDT says

    @Paul Then where are the good ones in this situation? Where are the good teachers standing up to the administrators and the cops?

    The science teacher who has backed up the boy's statements that he was shown the clock, and they talked about it as a cool thing the kid built. BEFORE the English Teacher got involved.

  112. guesting says

    I really wished people would stop making this sort of thing a "right vs left problem" or a "who has helped the most to have this problem". Both sides are at fault, Obama inviting the kid to the WH means nothing unless he pushes for a reformation of school administration AND police conduct, he wont do it.

    Also, while it is reasonable to assume that racism played part of this, to say no white kid would get the same treatment is willfully ignorant.

    http://thefreethoughtproject.com/shock-video-cop-handcuffs-tiny-child-watches-screams-agony/

    Besides, blaming this 100% on racism will do what exactly? would you fix it with more laws/rules? if so then who usually enforces the laws/rules? exactly, cops and teachers so basically you would be giving them more power for their own fuck ups.

  113. CapnObvious says

    @mdt

    They should not have Violated Parental Rights by refusing to allow the boy to call his legal guardian.

    Given.

    They should not have arrested him for a crime they had zero evidence of (bomb hoaxing)

    I've never heard that physical evidence, even circumstantial, is zero evidence before… that's a new one.

    you don't get to arrest people because you think they might have possibly been planning to commit a crime at some future point

    I think you may need to re-read what you wrote there to see how incredibly silly it is. Ignoring for the moment the faulty premise (conflating the hypothetical) that this arrest was for the potential future crime as opposed to the immediate crime of bomb hoaxing, have you never heard of a 24 hour hold? Has no aspiring bomber ever been arrested before detonating his device? Do you expect police to never arrest anyone until investigations are 100% complete and 100% of all evidence has been collected? How could you even prove that standard had ever been met?

    English teacher asks what it is, is told it's a clock…

    Because obviously if it was a hoax bomb that accidentally prematurely drew attention by beeping before being "planted" the kid would say "It's a hoax bomb I intended to plant later." Kids never lie when caught doing something that could get them in trouble, you know.

    Principle should have asked the boy what it was, and what his intentions were.

    Smart people like yourself know that kids never lie when caught doing something that could get them in trouble, it's the rest of the planet that are obviously morons…

    Double check with science teacher, who backs up that boy showed it to him as a clock and the teacher praised him on it.

    Yes, that should have happened a lot sooner than it did, as it would have negated the entirely reasonable course of the police being called. After that point in your assessment, I think we are agreed that idiocy ensued. But given it actually had entirely reasonable beginnings, I just don't see it as national-news-level-teachable-moment-racial-crisis-conspiracy to which the media and moron-in-chief have elevated it.

    As I said… merely quibbling over degrees.

  114. Dan says

    @CapnObvious,

    I've never heard that physical evidence, even circumstantial, is zero evidence before… that's a new one.

    The "physical evidence", as you call it, was a clock. Everybody involved agrees it was a clock; nobody (including the idiot of an English teacher) believed for any significant amount of time that it was anything else (like a bomb). TX Penal Code sec. 46.01(13) defines "hoax bomb" as:

    a device that:
    (A) reasonably appears to be an explosive or incendiary device; or
    (B) by its design causes alarm or reaction of any type by an official of a public safety agency or a volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies.

    Again, nobody confused it with a bomb, so (A) is out. (B) is probably unconstitutional on grounds of lack of notice, but even so, there's no indication that any of the police were alarmed by it, either. So, the "physical evidence" didn't provide any evidence at all that an offense had taken place. Further, the actual offense in TX Pen Code 46.08 reads as follows:

    (a) A person commits an offense if the person knowingly manufactures, sells, purchases, transports, or possesses a hoax bomb with intent to use the hoax bomb to:
    (1) make another believe that the hoax bomb is an explosive or incendiary device; or
    (2) cause alarm or reaction of any type by an official of a public safety agency or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies.

    (emphasis added). So, to have evidence supporting the offense for which they arrested him, the police would have had to have evidence, not only that the clock was in fact a "hoax bomb", but that Ahmed (1) knew it was a hoax bomb, and (2) intended to use it as such. The clock isn't evidence of the first part, much less of his intent.

    Yes, kids lie. And if there were some contrary evidence, something giving the slightest hint that Ahmed did intend to use his clock as a hoax bomb, then the cops might have been justified in disregarding Ahmed's statements. But they don't get to just point to the clock and say res ipsa loquitur.

  115. Dan says

    @luagha,

    Hasn't the kid's father turned out to be a lawyer for CAIR?

    I don't believe this is the case, but even supposing it is–so what? Are you suggesting that the basic facts of this story (to wit: kid brings homemade clock to school, school freaks out, school calls police, police interrogate kid, kid consistently maintains it's only a clock and nothing but a clock, science teacher tells principal and police it's only a clock, police arrest kid anyway), which as I understand it have been substantiated by both the school and the police, are misstated? What do you understand those facts to be, and what's your basis for that understanding? And what relevance does the father's supposed connection with/employment by CAIR have to these facts?

  116. Sad Panda says

    CapnObvious says:

    Because obviously if it was a hoax bomb that accidentally prematurely drew attention by beeping before being "planted" the kid would say "It's a hoax bomb I intended to plant later." Kids never lie when caught doing something that could get them in trouble, you know.

    I love all the "guilty until proven innocent" arguments, especially on a libertarian blog.

    Especially when you have to ignore little facts like that he already showed the thing to one of his teachers. Very suspicious behaviour, I'm surprised he got bail.

  117. Dan says

    These zero tolerance policies catch plenty of white kids too.

    A headline I saw…

    "Eight-Year-Old Faced Expulsion for Drawing Gun, But Muslim Student Gets White House Invite After ‘Hoax Bomb’"

    Our leftwing overlords certainly do not treat everyone the same.

  118. David Schwartz says

    If the rationale for the arrest was they feared what he might do in the future, that makes the police look even worse. After all, he denied he intended any harm, nobody alleged he claimed he intended to do any harm, they already knew the device was not a bomb and didn't look particularly like a bomb. They knew it was a clock. On what possible objectively reasonable basis could they have had suspicions sufficient to justify an arrest at that point? I can think of a few objectively unreasonable ones.

  119. TheInvisibleMan says

    I heard the most jawdropping description of this just yesterday.

    SomeIdiot: "To the uneducated eye, the device could easily be identified as a potential bomb."

    Me: "You just described the problem."

    SomeIdiot: "What?

    Me: "Why are people who you freely admit are uneducated to be making these determinations, then making decisions based on their uneducated determinations?"

  120. David Schwartz says

    Well, it is a potential bomb, but so is a suitcase. Something being a potential bomb doesn't justify any response at all. On the other hand, if something looks more like a bomb than an innocent object (like a clock or suitcase), that's a problem. And if someone acts in a way that makes a potential bomb seem like a threat (like someone holding a suitcase saying, "I have a bomb") that's a problem.

    I could imagine a child or very paranoid person thinking perhaps this looks enough like a bomb that it should be reported to someone else. But it should rapidly get to someone with enough brains to say "It looks much more like a clock than a bomb, do you have anything more than its appearance? No. Okay, we're done here."

    And the big problem is that even if you want to argue that paranoia led them to a stupid mistake, why are they doubling down on the stupid? And if they really think they made the right call, now that they've had a chance to think about it, they need to be run out of town on a rail, because it appears clear that they are unable to comprehend common sense.

  121. TheInvisibleMan says

    even if you want to argue that paranoia led them to a stupid mistake

    Oh no, not at all.

    It's not nearly that complicated. Being stupid led them to make a stupid mistake, or uneducated if you prefer.

    why are they doubling down on the stupid?

    See my answer above.

  122. Philo-phobe says

    People have such strong opinions (my people call this "attachment to views") on the basis of reading one or two new stories. Imagine all of the salient facts that many of those involved were privy to that were not included in the news story. Not by way of conspiracy, but just because the reporter was also not privy to them.

  123. barry says

    they did something incredibly wrong, and need to pay for that.

    That's the punishment culture again.
    The risk of backing down has become too large. Backing down means you're the one who made the mistake. And you're the one who gets punished. It's more important not to be wrong than to be right.

    Doubling down on a mistake becomes the best play. The problem gets kicked upstairs, you're in the clear and then they get to decide if they want to back down and get punished, or kick it further. This is a cultural thing and does not seem to belong more to either liberal or conservative thinking. I blame Tom Petty.

    It could have got really messy. Luckily in this case the President caught it in time and defused the troublesome clock with reward rather than punishment.

  124. Trent says

    You aren't going to stop this overreaction and punishment for punishments sake by the police until we as a society are willing to recognize that bad police behavior is only going to be corrected by putting cameras on them and punishing them when they screw up and if the higher ups protect those that screw up the courts should breach qualified immunity and make them all financially responsible for violating people's rights.

    Everyone in this thread is focused on Ahmad, but realistically it doesn't matter who the victim was. The cops violating procedures, the rights of Ahmad and his parents and proceeded with an incarceration they had no legitimate purpose for. They questioned Ahmad without his parents present, a violation of both is and his parents rights. He asked to call his father almost immediately after being brought before the police and was denied the right to do so. He was asked to sign a "confession" that wouldn't have been worth the paper it was printed on because of the prior violations. In the face of almost an hour of questioning and without wavering one inch in his assertion it was just a clock they decided to arrest him and book him into jail. Again without probable cause of any crime as they later admitted on national television, which is going to make the civil suit quite easy.

    All the cops involved should be fired, all the supervisors should be reprimanded, have their pay docked and forced to undergo additional training and the head of the police force should have his own pay docked as well. The school district should fire the principal IMO and dock the teachers pay and make him/her do some training on threat recognition and response.

    This was a train that couldn't be derailed because all the "authority" figures involved were a bunch of right violating morons.

  125. Sad Panda says

    Matthew Cline says

    Some people are suggesting that the kid intended the reactions he got, and the school and police unwittingly played right into his hands.

    Some people are saying there are aliens at Area 51, 9/11 was an inside job and Donald Trump would make a good POTUS. Other people look for a balance of evidence that would support a claim before they accept it, and then only provisionally. Only the latter group qualify as rational.

    I understand why some people are annoyed that this kid got more press and support than other non-Muslim kids who've been similarly shafted by assholes posing as adults, but the number of people I see arguing things like "the kid intended the reactions he got" really do make me wonder how much of a role bigotry has played in this case. If Irving TX is anything like the internet, that kid is lucky to still be alive.

  126. salty says

    He took a clock out of it's normal case and put it in a briefcase, that's not inventing it's dumb, especially since there were basically open electrical contacts on it. It should have been confiscated as a fire and safety threat for that.

  127. Chooch says

    So… Where was the outrage when this same thing happened to a girl in Florida in 2013 when she was accused of bringing a "bomb" to school that was a science project??

    First of all, the underlying facts are wildly different – she actually did create an explosive device, and she actually did intend for it to explode, and actually did cause it to explode on school property. So there was a good deal more justification for her initial arrest than in this case.

    Second of all, who cares? Outrage, or the lack of it, in that case has nothing whatsoever to do with the facts of this case. It's just a cheap rhetorical diversion, a red herring to change the subject because apparently you want to talk about the hypocrisy of some group or other rather than discuss the actual topic at hand.

    That said, it wasn't even a very smart choice of red herrings. Because there was plenty of outrage over her case. The outrage was two years ago; it was in the national news; it was on the internet. It was a cause that was taken up by the NAACP and by Scientific American. The outrage was wide enough that Homer Hickam — the NASA guy whose memoir "Rocket Boys" was turned into the movie "October Sky" — raised enough money to send her to Space Camp. The outrage was in a petition that got nearly 200,000 signatures. The outrage was enough that all of the charges against her were dropped. The outrage was widespread enough that when hey were dropped she had to hold a press conference so the reporters would finally leave her alone. The outrage was widespread enough that ABC News has a link to the national story they did on it back then – a link that can be found in the very article you linked to.

    So please, spare us the "where was your outrage over this other thing"

  128. pjcamp says

    You saw that he was Muslim, right?

    Muslim! Muslim! Muslim!

    We've all learned that this justifies everything, haven't we? Clearly he's going to the White House to pray with his fellow Muslim. I have that on the best authority (mayor of Irving).

    Jeez, it doesn't matter how stupid cops are, they're always going to circle the wagons rather than admit error.

  129. says

    Frankly I'd love to see this reaction to what the principal and police did:

    bankuei:

    “Ok, so you thought the boy made a bomb.”

    “Yes.”

    “And instead of evacuating the school, you pulled him out of class, arrested him in front of everyone, then interrogated him on the premises without getting the children to safety? So, we’re going to put you up for criminal endangerment of this entire school”

    “Well, uh, maybe we didn’t really think it was a bomb”

    “Oh, ok, so instead you lied to police and federal authorities in order to bring up false charges against a minor for… kicks? I mean, you’re basically picking between which charges you’d like to go up on here. Let me know, so we can get the paperwork right.”

    That might bring some of this under control. And the "Don't you expect them to be looking out for student safety?" line doesn't fly with me. I also expect them to be able to tell the difference between a digital alarm clock and a bomb, I expect them to be able to tell which of those two merits arrest/detention/interrogation and which merits a warning not to alarm the clueless again, and I figure if they aren't capable of successfully managing the latter two they aren't capable of managing the former either.

  130. Lagaya1 says

    Anon Y Mous, join The Baker and Erik Atkinson as People Most Missing the Point. Are you all the same guy?

  131. McNatG says

    Anyone who doubts how regressive Irving, TX is should just soak in this set of facts about the community (from Wikipedia):

    "Prior to the November 2008 elections, Irving banned the sale of alcoholic beverages in stores, making it the largest in population dry suburb in North Texas. In 2004 the pro-alcohol measure failed with 63% of voters opposing the measure. In 2006, 52% voted against the measure. On the third attempt, with heavy monetary backing by retailers, voters narrowly voted in favor of the measure in 2008."

  132. Matthew Cline says

    @Anon Y. Mous:

    Ahmed did not make or build or invent a clock. He disassembled an existing clock and stuck the pieces in a pencil case. Why he would do such a thing and then pose as an inventor is the question I would like to see addressed.

    Completely irrelevant to the issues of Ahmed being suspended and arrested.

  133. toadboy says

    I have to disagree a little with this post. I am certainly an opponent of the insane zero tolerance culture in schools these days, but there are some issues here that are not getting press. I have a son the same age, with the same background of robotics club and the same desire to tinker. I sought his council on this one, and he told me that he would not take such a project to school because it was "lame", and it would be dishonest to say that he had invented anything. here are my observations, as a fairly competent electronics nerd with some energetic materials engineering experience-
    1. It is a radio shack digital clock, removed from it's case and stuck in a box resembling a briefcase. The only skill involved was the use of a screwdriver. A tinkerer his age should be way past such a project.
    2. In popular culture today, a briefcase with circuit boards and a number display on the inside reminds one of a bomb. Any 14 year old would make that association.
    3. In the reports I heard from the school and police, he adopted a "passive/aggressive" attitude during questioning. I suppose that is his right, but probably not the best way to deescalate a situation.
    4. 14 year olds make poor decisions. I suspect that racism and zero tolerance paranoia were issues here, but I think that full investigation of the event will show that the boy was trying to be clever, but it backfired on him, and his Father's background as an activist taught him to say and do things that made the situation worse.
    5. POTUS and MIT falling over themselves to support the kid before all the facts were out is going to backfire. It is going to look pretty silly to have everyone showering him with praise for his inventive skill when he really did not invent anything. There are kids that age actually making amazing things. Many of those kids are POC, and they rarely get invited to the White House.
    I just wish we could learn to examine all the facts of a case like this before declaring a position that will be hard to back down from.

  134. MJW says

    Anon Y Mous, join The Baker and Erik Atkinson as People Most Missing the Point.

    Perhaps so, but in the interest of accuracy, White should probably change:

    Ahmed made a clock. He likes to make thing and repair things and tinker with things, apparently. Last weekend he built a digital clock out of a circuit board and a power display and a digital display.

    to,

    Ahmed took an old disassembled alarm clock and, for no apparent reason, put it in a pencil box.

  135. mythago says

    @toadboy: How ironic that you tut-tut about needing to know "all the facts of the case" while relying on hearsay that the boy was 'passive/aggressive', whatever you think that phrase means, and your speculation that Ahmed was 'trying to be clever' and was enacting some kind of sinister activist agenda at the urging of his father.

    Teenagers do not always have the best judgment. Adults are supposed to have better judgment.

  136. Sad Panda says

    Anon Y. Mous:

    Ahmed did not make or build or invent a clock.

    Yes, and?

    toadboy:

    A tinkerer his age should be way past such a project.

    So extracurricular electronics is on a schedule now? Did someone slip it into the Common Core while I wasn't looking?

    What a bunch of whiners. Yes, there is nothing technically impressive about what this kid put together. So what?

    The old nerds among us perfectly understand Ahmed's learning process. Young nerds need to be protected from assholes like you just as much as they do from these fuckwad teachers, administrators and cops.

  137. En Passant says

    mythago says September 19, 2015 at 10:15 pm:

    @toadboy: How ironic that you tut-tut about needing to know "all the facts of the case" while relying on hearsay that the boy was 'passive/aggressive', whatever you think that phrase means, …

    Not to mention the new contention that Ahmed claimed to have "invented" something. The term "invent" does not appear in any direct quotation from Ahmed. I have seen nothing in any news report to support the inference that Ahmed claimed to have invented anything. The phrase "he showed his invention" appears in some, but not all, news reports.

    A lazy reporter used the phrase. It apparently stuck in the minds of those who cannot distinguish between reported facts and reporters' poor choice of words.

    So, now, to support wild conjectures that he staged the events as some vague Islamic conspiracy to embarrass police and school teachers, we see the additional fillip that Ahmed claimed to have "invented" a clock.

    If he is half as clever as the conspiracy theorists think he is, he should be commanding Al Quaeda in no time.

    The stupid was very strong with the school principal and police involved. Apparently it is contagious and spreading.

  138. toadboy says

    Sad Panda and En Passant-

    The term "passive/aggressive" came from the police spokesman James McLellan, in reference to Mohamed's interactions with school officials and police.

    Mohamed called the clock "one of my inventions" twice during interviews with Dallas station WFAA.

    I was a little conflicted about saying that his project was not at the level a kid his age should be working at, so I consulted my son, who is the same age, with many of the same interests, with friends that are also 14 year old tinkerers in the robotics club at junior high. Mohamed was invited to show the clock at the Google Science Fair. If he goes, he will encounter kids his age who have invented things like "autonomous flying robots with danger avoidance behavior based on fruit fly visual systems" and "devices to purify third world wastewater while producing hydrogen fuel."

    And I definitely do not think this was all a fiendish plot by the boy's father. I think that Mohamed probably thought he was doing something clever and funny, but was not. That is normal behavior for kids his age. I suspect that his father's activist influence probably led to Mohamed being uncooperative with school authorities and the police, and also to the publicizing of the incident. Those are suppositions on my part. I also have no doubt that the authorities overreacted. My own son has been a victim of the zero tolerance madness.

    The Popehat site has been very helpful in teaching me about free speech and the justice system. I have little expertise in those subjects. I do know something about teenage boys who tinker with electronics.

  139. BadRoad says

    toadboy:
    Ahmed had every right to be uncooperative with the police. He was accused of a crime, and his Constitutional rights were being violated. It would be foolish and, in my opinion, unpatriotic to cooperate under those circumstances.

    Besides, since when is it the suspect's obligation to deescalate an encounter with the police? Police are supposed to be trained in deescalation. Many of them apparently aren't qualified, judging by some of the ridiculous use-of-force incidents we've been seeing in the news lately, but it is actually part of their job.

  140. Anon Y. Mous says

    En Passant says September 20, 2015 at 1:13 am

    Not to mention the new contention that Ahmed claimed to have "invented" something. The term "invent" does not appear in any direct quotation from Ahmed. I have seen nothing in any news report to support the inference that Ahmed claimed to have invented anything. The phrase "he showed his invention" appears in some, but not all, news reports.

    A lazy reporter used the phrase. It apparently stuck in the minds of those who cannot distinguish between reported facts and reporters' poor choice of words.

    The lazy reporter was the lyin' kid himself:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mW4w0Y1OXE

    My hobby is to invent stuff
    […]
    I made a clock
    […]
    and searched through my stuff and searched my tablet and my invention.

    Etc,

    If the provenance of his "invention" is beside the point, why does everyone keep spouting bullshit about it instead of telling the truth?

  141. says

    @MDT:

    I don't believe the word "moron" adequately describes what's going on there. Instead, I think that word you want is "coward", with a specific connotation that what they were afraid of was the short term embarrassment that comes from looking foolish, or from making a colleague look foolish. No one thought it was a bomb (as evidenced from how they treated the case). Whether they thought it was made to look like a bomb – I strongly believe that no one (except maybe the English teacher) even thought it was made to look like a bomb, but that they thought they could maybe show that he did something wrong and serious, and so justify having taken him out of class and having called the police. Everything after the initial "this looks like a bomb" statement is bureaucratic covering-of-asses. (And possibly also racism, or also local political payback (*), or zero-tolerance gone mad. An action can have many reasons)

    (*) After all, yes, Ahmed's father is something of a community leader in the local Muslim community and Irving, TX is a spot with a fair amount of anti-Muslim rhetoric regularly spouted by local officials. (Few mayors in the US regularly take time to explicitly declaim Sharia Law) I haven't seen anything that points to him being a lawyer, let alone one employed by CAIR, but if that were true I don't understand how that changes the story – if anything, it gives more credence to the idea that the local police would have it out for this family.

  142. Suthenboy says

    In the Fourth grade one of my friends brought a fully functional MP-40 to show-and-tell that his grandfather had captured during WWII. Everyone in the school, including the principal got to play with it. It was great.

    In the Sixth grade the NRA came to the school and everyone watched gun safety films, took the NRA gun safety class and upon graduating got six shots at three pigeons on the playground with a side-by-side 20 gauge.

    The Sheriff's department came every year and gave us a show with a shooting exhibition in the lunchroom into a bullet trap.

    That is the Louisiana I grew up in.

    Until we start punishing fuckwits like these Irving cops and administrators this kind of behavior will continue.

  143. En Passant says

    toadboy says September 20, 2015 at 7:48 am:

    The term "passive/aggressive" came from the police spokesman James McLellan, in reference to Mohamed's interactions with school officials and police.

    Then it's pure police spin. If you haven't noticed, after any event reflecting badly on police, a police spokesman routinely makes highly self-serving statements to exculpate police. This incident is just another example of cop spin.

    Mohamed called the clock "one of my inventions" twice during interviews with Dallas station WFAA.

    In that case, I stand corrected. I've seen nothing of a self-proclaimed "invention" in any written news reports. I have never listened to WFAA, nor any other Dallas station recently. I'm nowhere near Dallas.

    Ahmed made a poor choice of words. He should have said "device". Fourteen year old kids aren't always adept at choosing the right words.

    I was a little conflicted about saying that his project was not at the level a kid his age should be working at, so I consulted my son, who is the same age, …

    You were once 14, as was I. My "projects" at that age were lame and sloppy, certainly unworthy of a national "science fair". I did take one to school for some kind of "show and tell". But I wasn't arrested and interrogated by totalitarian numbskulls.

    I suspect that his father's activist influence probably led to Mohamed being uncooperative with school authorities and the police, and also to the publicizing of the incident. Those are suppositions on my part. I also have no doubt that the authorities overreacted.

    Key word: "suppositions". It's good to admit suppositions based on police public relations spin.

    It is not "uncooperative" to decline to answer police questions, or to ask to speak to your lawyer if questioned in custody. It's called asserting your constitutional rights. But the police and school administration decided those rights didn't count.

    I see no reason to suppose anything except the bare facts as widely reported. Ahmed is a14 year old kid. He used scavenged components to throw together a lame electronic device that apparently counted and displayed time. He took it to school to show his teachers. Self-serving official stupidity and paranoid totalitarian madness ensued. Every school official and police officer involved should be looking for a new job.

  144. Dan Weber says

    It's not "conspiracy" to think the father had something to do with it. If Radley Balko's kid got arrested for photographing the "wrong" thing, we wouldn't be so dim as to only assume it was completely unrelated to their father's being an agitator.

  145. mythago says

    Those are suppositions on my part.

    Then maybe drop the "we don't have all the facts" posturing. Either it's OK to extrapolate from the actual facts, or it's not.

    It literally does not matter whether Ahmed used "invented" when he should have said "made", or whether he is far behind other 14-year-old boys in terms of his electronic skills. Every adult connected with the school and the police department, except for his engineering teacher, behaved like a hysterical idiot, arrested a child over nothing, and is now furiously trying to cover their asses with lies. Other than Golden Mean posturing or bigotry, what is the point of obsessive speculation about Ahmed's inner thoughts?

  146. says

    I have to disagree a little with this post. I am certainly an opponent of the insane zero tolerance culture in schools these days, but there are some issues here that are not getting press.

  147. AlphaCentauri says

    "Ahmed took an old disassembled alarm clock and, for no apparent reason, put it in a pencil box."

    When I was his age, I was putting together a plastic model of a human with transparent skin and removable organs. The point was not to invent a human; it was to learn how things work on the inside.

    Ahmed found a way to turn a piece-of-junk 40 year old clock into an educational demonstration. That's a good enough reason for what he did, even if the clock had still been functional in its original housing (which was unlikely given my experience with 40-year-old digital clocks).

  148. Matthew Cline says

    It is not "uncooperative" to decline to answer police questions, or to ask to speak to your lawyer if questioned in custody.

    From what I've read, he told the police and school officials that it was a clock, but didn't tell them it he brought it to school to impress his engineering teacher. It's within the realm of possibility that they asked him both what it was and why, but refused to answer the second question, which would be suspicious. But it's also possible that they only asked what it was, and that he was honestly confused as to why they were unsatisfied with his answer.

  149. barry says

    Of course it's an irrelevant red herring distraction to ask if Ahmed's clock is an invention or not.
    But let's go there anyway.

    It might be. People are happy to say Thomas Edison invented the incandescent light bulb when it was clearly a Joseph Swan incandescent light bulb. Edison did what Ahmed did: remade an existing invention. And I'm happy to give Edison the credit for putting work into it.

    Back to clocks: Look at patent US7978565. It's a digital alarm clock with extra 'nap timer' buttons so you don't have to reset anything to have a short afternoon nap. It's not even claiming to invent the nap timer, it's an improvement on a previous nap timing clock. It still qualified as an invention.

    Now look at Ahmed's clock: it has a mains power supply cord and transformer like my RCA digital alarm clock. It also has a 9 volt battery terminal that mine doesn't. I'm guessing that when a battery is attached, it can be unplugged from one place, taken to another, plugged back in, without needing to be reset. Wouldn't that be something? It might not be the earth shattering invention people expect from "real inventors", but it still might qualify. Most inventions are improvements on previous inventions. Even if such a thing already existed, Ahmed might not have known of it.

  150. toadboy says

    Barry- I agree with you on a couple of points. Certainly that Mohamed's level of creativity is a much smaller issue than the zero tolerance or racial prejudice that may be involved here. Also, that an addition of a battery backup to an electric clock would be a creative addition. But that is not what happened here. He used a Micronta ( model 63-756) clock, which has a battery backup. He made no changes to the working parts of the clock. He literally just took the screws out of the clock case, popped the boards and display out, and used two screws to hold the display onto the inside of the case. he may have cut and resoldered the power cord, but the images make that hard to discern. All of the other connections remain as manufactured. The Edison parallel would be apt, had Edison purchased a "Swan Brand' light bulb, threw away the original packaging, and sold it in a paper bag with "made by Edison" written in crayon across the side. Edison could even leave the swan logo on the bulb, as Mohamed left the micronta part numbers and logo on the pc boards. But once again, he is a 14 year old kid, and they do strange things. My point about his level of inventiveness is really only about the many voices calling for him to be given an MIT scholarship and bending the narrative to portray him as a budding genius whose creativity is being suppressed by the man. I think an examination of the evidence shows that he is a typical 14 year old who thought that he was being clever or perhaps funny, and the school overreacted, as did the police. He does say that he plugged it in during the class where the trouble started, and the alarm went off. He was fooling around, as teenagers often do. I would say detention, not handcuffs. I think it is great that he wants to take stuff apart to figure out how it works. But there are lots of kids out there actually designing and building fantastic stuff that will change our lives, but those kids are not getting invited to the White House.

  151. King Squirrel says

    @Toadboy –

    Sure they are. The 5th annual White House Science Fair this year had some ludicrously impressive stuff.

  152. mythago says

    @Toadboy: I am sorry that the President did not bestow on your son the recognition of his brilliance and hard work in robotics club that you clearly believe he deserves. It may console you, once you stop fixating on your belief that you know Ahmed's inner mind, to know that Ahmed is not being plucked out of obscurity because he came up with a brilliant new invention. He is getting attention and support purely because the bigoted asshats at his school pretended* they thought his clock was a bomb, had him arrested by equally stupid and venal police, and now continue to double down on their bigoted stupidity.

    *As has been pointed out over and over again, a teacher who credibly believes a student is holding a bomb does not put the bomb in her desk to deal with after class; she calls 911 and the principal and has the building evacuated. Either this teacher was so idiotic that she didn't understand this, or she knew it wasn't a bomb and didn't care; ditto the police.

  153. toadboy65 says

    To all- I did not intend to hate on the boy. My impression was that people either want to believe that he is part of some evil Islamic plot or that he deserves some sort of National science prize, and I think the real story is that neither narrative is true. I wish him and his family the best, and that no other family has to face such an over reaction from the authorities. That is all.
    T

  154. barry says

    @toadboy

    He used a Micronta ( model 63-756) clock, which has a battery backup.

    I did not know of such things, and may have been overly impressed by the idea. My RCA digital alarm clock has the sound of a truck backing into the house which is necessary for early mornings, but no backup battery. A clock with both features would be neat.

    My own clock related invention is a 15 degree concrete wedge which can be placed under sundials to adjust for daylight savings time. I did not patent this, so if you have a sundial you can have it (tilt the dial 15 degrees around the axis of the gnomon in summer).

    Unrelated: For some totally 'huh?' inventions, check out US 6368227 Method of swinging on a swing, and US 5443036 Method of exercising a cat. Both expired, you can have these too.

  155. L says

    As has been pointed out over and over again, a teacher who credibly believes a student is holding a bomb does not put the bomb in her desk to deal with after class; she calls 911 and the principal and has the building evacuated. Either this teacher was so idiotic that she didn't understand this, or she knew it wasn't a bomb and didn't care; ditto the police.

    I think you're being extremely generous to the teacher to allow for the possibility that this was idiocy. The instinct for self-preservation shines through all but the most extreme cases of idiocy. If she thought it was a bomb, she would not have done as she did.

    The latter case, "she knew it wasn't a bomb and didn't care; ditto the police," is the only reasonable possibility.

  156. Dan Weber says

    Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

    This means putting more work into listening to what the other person is saying than into trying to ram your narrative down their throats.

  157. L says

    My impression was that people either want to believe that he is part of some evil Islamic plot or that he deserves some sort of National science prize, and I think the real story is that neither narrative is true.

    Neither narrative is true, but only one of the two narratives is harmful and deserves countering. The other one can be safely ignored (unless you're in charge of handing out National Science Prizes).

    ETA: Also don't forget about the Relativity of Wrong.

  158. Dan says

    @Scary Terry,

    There seems to be some evidence that the homemade clock was actually just a store clock with the case removed.

    Indeed, and if you read even the last dozen or so comments before you posted yours, you'd notice that this suggestion was already under discussion. But what of it? Supposing that is the case (as it appears to be), does it have any significant affect on the rest of the story? If you believe it does, what difference do you think it makes, and why?

    Let's grant that Ahmed was incorrect in calling it an "invention." Maybe he simply misspoke, maybe he exaggerated, maybe he outright lied. Let's grant further that he didn't do anything at all to alter or repair the clock–he just took its guts and put them in a different enclosure. So what?

  159. MJW says

    The latter case, "she knew it wasn't a bomb and didn't care; ditto the police," is the only reasonable possibility.

    Suppose she knew it wasn't a bomb, but believed the kid brought it to school with the intention that it would be mistaken for a bomb? That seems to me to be a reasonable hypothesis, considering there seems to be no point in taking the clock out of its original case and putting it in a briefcase-like case, resulting in something that looked like the quintessential Hollywood time bomb.

    I don't deny that even if that were the case, the school officials and police overreacted, but if Ahmed's purpose was to frighten the other students, he deserved punishment, even if his faux bomb (if that's what it was) wasn't convincing on closer examination.

  160. mythago says

    @MJW: Oh, suppose, indeed. What other non-facts can we "suppose" out of thin air to justify this thuggish paranoia? The flapping police admitted they had no information that he told anybody it was anything except a clock.

  161. Dictatortot says

    As others have pointed out, the facts suggest that everyone involved knew it wasn't a bomb–if anyone had sincerely thought it a possibility, their reactions and the treatment of the clock would have been dramatically different. Rather than paranoia, one suspects that the local authorities were more interested in rattling his and his family's cage, and helping to make residence in the town unpleasant for them on account of the latter's religion–a defensible urge, but one that shouldn't be done so clumsily, or with such insufficient deniability.

  162. Mich says

    All of you desperately whining about "OMG WHITE KIDS GET PUNISHED TOO" have no freaking idea what white privilege means and should probably shut up about it until you do.

  163. Taliesyn says

    Mich – The problem with your (completely true) statement is that part of white privilege is denying it exists.

  164. Publius says

    Guy picks a fight with many people critical of Islam. Generally gets into belligerent public scenes. His name? Mohamed ElHassan.

    His son disassembles a clock and brings it to school in a pencil box, without altering it in any significant way. This kid is 14, and he hasn't made any substantial modifications to the circuit design of the clock, only rendering it into a bizarre looking warren of wires. That's the extent of his "invention." His name? Ahmed Mohammed.

    If no substantial modification of the clock has transpired, but the clock has merely been pulled out of its case, the argument that it may be a hoax bomb is reasonable. Particularly in light of the young man's cagey response to police.

    It seems that both father and son do not significantly contribute, but merely crave attention and spectacle.

  165. andrews says

    Airport security forbids small bottles with liquids, regardless if they are legitimate or not, and rightfully so after people got killed.

    This would make more sense if people had been getting killed by folks wielding small bottles with liquids.

  166. andrews says

    I think its a fair question to ask whether or not this would have happened at this particular school with this particular police officer if the suspect's race was changed.

    I believe the cops answered that question for you:
    “Yup. That’s who I thought it was,” said one officer mysteriously upon seeing him.

  167. Dan Weber says

    That cop's statement doesn't answer any question about race. The prominent fact revealed by the statement was that Ahmed's family is well-known in the community because of his father being an agitator.

    Again, being an agitator isn't wrong. Radley Balko is an agitator, and we love him for it. But if his kids were caught photographing things that administrators didn't like, more than once, I wouldn't be surprised if the cops responding to a call about a student with "spy cameras" went there expecting it to be another Balko kid stirring the pot.

    People do weird stuff for media exposure and even wrangle their kids into it. Balloon boy wasn't that long ago.

    Of course I don't have the mental telepathy to know exactly what was going through everyone's mind. But I'm amazed at so many people's ability to jump to conclusions while tut-tutting others who had the temerity to jump to a different set of conclusions.

  168. Careless says

    Ahmed made a poor choice of words. He should have said "device". Fourteen year old kids aren't always adept at choosing the right words.

    And here's where En Passant convinced me he was incapable of thinking about this rationally.

    It was a lie. He lied. He didn't accidentally repeatedly call it an invention. He told a lie. There's something wrong with you that makes you unable to call it that.

    It is not "uncooperative" to decline to answer police questions

    WTF? it quite literally is being uncooperative. That doesn't mean it's a bad idea. That's just what being uncooperative is

  169. Careless says

    Now look at Ahmed's clock: it has a mains power supply cord and transformer like my RCA digital alarm clock. It also has a 9 volt battery terminal that mine doesn't. I'm guessing that when a battery is attached, it can be unplugged from one place, taken to another, plugged back in, without needing to be reset. Wouldn't that be something? It might not be the earth shattering invention people expect from "real inventors", but it still might qualify

    Sure, if he had made it himself, it would be something, especially if he weren't aware of the billions of other clocks with the same thing inside them. But he didn't, he just removed it from the case.

    I did not know of such things

    This is actually the weirdest thing I've ever read on Popehat.

  170. En Passant says

    Careless says September 24, 2015 at 2:07 pm:

    And here's where En Passant convinced me he was incapable of thinking about this rationally.

    It was a lie. He lied. He didn't accidentally repeatedly call it an invention. He told a lie. There's something wrong with you that makes you unable to call it that.

    I once called some gloppy ink I swabbed onto paper "my art", several times. It wasn't art. It was glops of ink on paper. But I thought it was art. Therefore I lied?

    You demand that a child say "I think this is an invention but it might not be" or be considered a liar?

    That's a rather sophisticated level of semantic analysis to expect from a child.

    It is not "uncooperative" to decline to answer police questions

    WTF? it quite literally is being uncooperative. That doesn't mean it's a bad idea. That's just what being uncooperative is

    Once he had answered the questions "Is it a bomb?" and "Did you intend it to look like a bomb?", he had cooperated fully. He had answered all legally relevant questions. Any further "questioning" was pure badgering.

    The police questioned him in custody while denying him access to parents or counsel. That is unlawful. You appear to have accepted the police's facile definition of "uncooperative", that failure to give the police the answers they wanted to hear was "uncooperative" and therefore indicia of a crime.

  171. Careless says

    I once called some gloppy ink I swabbed onto paper "my art", several times. It wasn't art. It was glops of ink on paper. But I thought it was art. Therefore I lied?

    You demand that a child say "I think this is an invention but it might not be" or be considered a liar?

    That's a rather sophisticated level of semantic analysis to expect from a child.

    So what, now your defense is that you think he's actually retarded? Maybe the thing you made was art in your mind. I didn't see it, I don't know you. I do know that there's no reasonable way to think that taking a clock out of its shell makes it an "invention" and no reasonable person over the age of about 7 would think it could be.

  172. you fool no one says

    Kids, kids, stop. Just stop.

    Pretending that this is a clock, and not a "device", pretending that this wasn't coordinated with CAIR and the White House is very, very evil.

    Pretending that this kid isn't a jihadist engaging in lawfare is simply telling us that you would put us in mass graves yourselves if you could pull it off.

  173. anon says

    The whole event reminded me of a local incident where, IIRC, a child was suspended for eating a poptart into a pistol-like shape. As a nation, we're committed to hamstringing a child's education for anything that separates them from the 50th percentile.

  174. says

    This is not a comment on the kid in question.

    @En Passant 4:14

    That's a rather sophisticated level of semantic analysis to expect from a child.

    No, it’s not. I could do that. In fact, I could construct elaborate lies my dad found funny because he liked figuring them out (that’s a matter for my therapist to sort out).

    My kids could do it by the time they were 8, and my daughter’s BFF was adept at it earlier than that. 14? By the time my kids are 14, they will have had lots of practice at this, and lots of experience in getting their butts kicked for it.

    My husband and I do not tolerate passive-aggressive bullshit in our house, from them OR their friends, who all seem quite good at it. Such semantics are expressly designed to give them plausible deniability because the expectation is we will pass it off as children being that unsophisticated and/or we are too stupid to know what they’re doing and/or we will not be able to counter it because they think they’re being subtle.

    So if you don’t have or know kids who can and will do that at very young ages to get what they want and be able to poke at somebody as a bonus, consider yourself lucky you don’t have to deal with it.

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  1. […] The Gentle Reader has probably heard the story of the boy who was taken into custody by police and suspended from school because the school bureaucrats thought his homemade electronic clock looked like a bomb. Popehat has a few good thoughts on the incident here. […]