Family of student arrested for homemade clock seeks $15M in damages, apologies

Ahmed Mohamed spoke to the media in September about his arrest. Ahmed’s family is demanding $15 million total in damages and written apologies from the city of Irving, Texas, and the 14-year-old student’s former school district. Video by PBS NewsHour

The family of Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old student from Irving, Texas, who was arrested after his homemade clock was mistaken for a hoax bomb, is demanding $15 million in damages and written apologies from two of the city’s leaders.

A lawyer for the family, Kelly D. Hollingsworth, sent letters to both the Texas city of Irving and its school district, listing several ways the teenager was “singled out because of his race, national origin, and religion.” The letters said Mohamed’s family is seeking $10 million in compensation from the city of Irving and $5 million dollars from the school district, Irving ISD.

“Let’s face it; if Ahmed’s clock were ‘Jennifer’s clock,’ and if the pencil case were ruby red bedazzled with a clear rhinestone skull and crossbones on the cover, this would never have happened,” the letters added.

The letters add that the school and city officials mishandled the situation and not necessarily because of oversight or incompetence.

“The school and city officials involved knew what they needed to do to protect Ahmed’s right,” the letters said. “They just decided not to do it.”

Video by The Dallas Morning News

Among the claims the letters make: that police illegally questioned Mohamed without his parents present; school officials tried to force a confession out of Mohamed even when the teenager repeatedly claimed his invention was only a clock; and after news of his arrest and detainment went viral, officials decided to “trash” him to the media.

Mohamed’s family also want written apologies specifically from Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne and Police Chief Larry Boyd within 60 days, or a civil action will be filed. Van Duyne, who’s celebrated by anti-Muslim groups, sat down for an interview in September with Glenn Beck, a former Fox News host who said Mohamed’s arrest was part of a plan to further a “civilization jihad.”

“Beck later opined that this was the ‘Islamists’ conspiracy to soften us up, so that we could later be attacked from inside,” the letters said. “When the guest sitting less than an arm’s length from Mayor Van Duyne called the pencil box a ‘briefcase,’ she did not say a word. She just nodded,” the letters added

Mohamed’s family decided to move to Qatar in October, so that the teenager could accept a full scholarship at the city’s innovation school, but to also distance the family from the flood of Islamophobia online that targeted the boy.

“Ahmed has suffered severe psychological trauma during his involuntarily separation from his grandmother and extended family,” the letters said, adding that the many threatening emails he received made him fear for his physical safety.

“In the long-term, we adults should know that — despite Ahmed’s efforts to be strong, and to prove that he is ‘a good boy’ — he will experience pain and suffering as result of this for the rest of his days,” the letters said.

The school district told Reuters that they would ready a response after they reviewed the letter. City officials, Reuters said, were not immediately available for comment.

Read the full letters below:

City of Irving Demand Letter

Irving ISD Demand Letter