Qatar-bound 'clock boy' files $15 million lawsuit against Texas school district
Ahmed Mohamed has accepted a scholarship to attend high school and college in Qatar, a scholarship he accepted because of death threats and other pressures that prompted his family to leave the U.S., according to reports in the Guardian and the Los Angeles Times.
"For the safety of my family, I have to go back to Qatar, because right now it's not very safe for my family or for anyone who's a minority," the now 15-year-old Ahmed was quoted as saying in the LA Times following a news conference in Dallas.
Last September, the Muslim teen, then a freshman, was arrested and suspended for three days when he brought what he said was a clock to the suburban Dallas high school. School officials promptly called the police after they mistook the device for a hoax bomb.
"They took me to a room filled with five officers in which they interrogated me and searched through my stuff and took my tablet and my invention," Ahmed was quoted in published reports at the time. "There were, like, 'So you tried to make a bomb?' I told them no, I was trying to make a clock."
No charges ever were filed against Ahmed, but school officials and police endured withering international charges of racism. The U.S. Department of Justice also investigated the incident and other allegations of existing patterns of discrimination.
Earlier this month, Ahmed's father, Mohamed Elhassan, filed suit in U.S. District Court for Northern Texas, Dallas Division against Irving ISD, Principal Daniel Cummings and the city of Irving. The lawsuit alleges Ahmed's civil rights were violated. The lawsuit alleges specific violations of the Fourth and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
Cummings was more than a mere bystander during the Ahmed's interrogation at the school, according to the lawsuit.
“He not only participated, he threatened Ahmed with expulsion if he didn’t sign a statement (saying the act was purposeful), in complete violation of Ahmed’s rights and his own responsibilities as the principal of the school,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit also claims Ahmed's high-profile arrest attracted numerous death threats against the family, and that Texas schools have a history of anti-Muslim discrimination, and provide a watered-down curriculum on the history of the civil rights movement and African-Americans in the U.S.
Attorney Christopher Stoy told the LA Times that he and fellow Fort Worth attorney Susan Hutchinson have received death threats for representing Ahmed and his family. Stoy said Ahmed told him this is a burden he has had to bear since news of his arrest went viral.
"This is something Ahmed has experienced from the beginning," Stoy was quoted in the LA Times article. "He told me, 'When all the hate starts coming at you, you can't let it affect you. Promise me, Chris, you won't let it affect you.'"
Ahmed's family came to the U.S. to escape religious persecution in Sudan, according to numerous published reports. The death threats and other pressures have now sent them to Qatar, the LA Times reported.
At the Dallas news conference, Ahmed said it has been terrifying for himself and his family to return to the United States. He said that when he is in public, he must wear a hoodie, sunglasses and a hat to disguise himself.
The lawsuit does not state a dollar amount for damages, but a letter from Ahmed's family to the city of Irving threatening litigation said they would seek $15 million in compensation.
Irving ISD officials declined comment but issued the following statement after they confirmed the lawsuit had been filed: “As with any legal matter of this nature, attorneys for the school district will review the filing and respond as appropriate. Irving ISD continues to deny violating the student’s rights and will respond to claims in accordance with court rules.”