The Short of It
Freshman Ahmed Mohamed's handmade alarm clock set off warning bells for one of his teachers at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, and he wound up in handcuffs and being interrogated by police for more than an hour and a half before his parents were notified. As the incident blew up (pun intended!), everyone from President Barack Obama to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg came out to support the budding scientist.
Ahmed Mohamed loves to tinker and build projects, and he brought the alarm clock into school to show his engineering teacher. But when the clock beeped during another class and his teacher saw it, police were called in—and even though they quickly determined that the clock was harmless, Ahmed ended up getting mug shots and fingerprints done at a juvenile detention center before he was eventually released. The school also gave him a three-day suspension on top of it.
While the Texas town's mayor, Beth Van Duyne, stands behind the way the incident was handled by the school and the police department, others say it's part of an ongoing issue with the treatment of the Islamic community in that area. And in the meantime, the #IStandWithAhmed movement has gained many celebrity backers, including President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mark Zuckerberg, and Questlove Gomez (of the Grammy-winning band the Roots). And Ahmed has also scored some pretty sweet offers: In addition to an invite to the White House (which he gladly accepted), he was invited to this weekend's Google Science Fair, for internships for tech companies Reddit and Twitter, and to visit MIT, the college he aspires to attend someday. He's also thanked his supporters via Twitter:
Thank you fellow supporters. We can ban together to stop this racial inequality and prevent this from happening again pic.twitter.com/fBlmckoafU— Ahmed Mohamed (@IStandWithAhmed) September 16, 2015
Prejudice is an ugly thing—and it appears it was at play in Ahmed's treatment. (He mentioned that he'd regularly been taunted as a "terrorist" and "bombmaker" at school.) But this time, instead of some jerky teenager, it's the institutions that are meant to protect children (and encourage learning!) that treated him so badly. As the mom of a tinkerer who aspires to many of the same goals as Ahmed, I'm angry (though sadly, not surprised) that this happened. (And I know if Ahmed looked like my tinkerer–a sweet little Asian girl—this probably wouldn't be an issue.) Our schools should be encouraging and inspiring budding future STEM students—not punishing them for taking pride in their talents.