On August 8, 2016, Ahmed Mahmoud and his family filed a lawsuit against the city of Irvin, Texas, and its school district for an ordeal that had begun nearly a year before. On September 14, 2015, 14-year-old Ahmed, a Sudanese-American boy, was arrested at school for showing his teacher a clock he had made at home.
Instead of receiving praise and encouragement, Ahmed was severely punished. His teacher, along with other school officials, claimed they thought the clock was a bomb, but no evacuation was ordered and no bomb squad was called in. Instead, standard police officers were called to the school to arrest the student, take him to the police station for fingerprinting and a mug shoot, and subject him to questioning.
After five police officers interrogated Mohamed for over two hours without his parents’ permission, they arrested him on charges of bringing a hoax bomb to school. Though those charges were subsequently dropped, school officials suspended Ahmed for three days. When the incident was reported in local and national press, Ahmed received an outpouring of support from near and far, and the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed soon went viral on social media. President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and thousands of others expressed support for Mohamed, and he was even invited to the White House.
In the meantime, local officials refused to admit that they had handled the situation improperly, or that Ahmed’s identity as a brown, Muslim boy, led him to be profiled and targeted in this way. On November 23, 2015, The Mohamed family requested damages and a public apology from City of Irving and its school district for civil rights violations and physical and mental anguish. The city did not meet those demands and, in late 2015 – due to ongoing threats and harassment from conspiracy theorists who claimed Ahmed truly was a dangerous terrorist – the Mohamed family moved to Qatar to accept a government education scholarship for Ahmed.
In December 2015, the Department of Justice launched an investigation into the incident to determine whether or not Mohamed’s civil rights were violated. In February 2016, the Texas attorney general ordered the Irving school district to provide a copy of a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice outlining allegations of “discipline of students on the basis of race, religion, and natural origin” to The Dallas Morning News. Instead of handing over a copy of the letter, the school district filed a lawsuit against the Texas attorney general to prevent releasing documents in the investigation. The federal investigation and the Mohamed family’s lawsuit are ongoing.
“The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is proud to present A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar. America’s history of racial inequality continues to undermine fair treatment, equal justice, and opportunity for many Americans. The genocide of Native people, the legacy of slavery and racial terror, and the legally supported abuse of racial minorities are not well understood. EJI believes that a deeper engagement with our nation’s history of racial injustice is important to addressing present-day questions of social justice and equality.