The family of a Muslim boy who was arrested after bringing a homemade clock to school filed a federal lawsuit Monday against Texas school officials and others, saying they violated the 14-year-old boy's civil rights.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Ahmed Mohamed, who was arrested at his suburban Dallas high school in September and charged with having a hoax bomb. He says he brought the homemade digital clock to school to show his teacher.
Irving police later dropped the charge, but he was still suspended for three days. He never returned to the school; his family opted to have him take classes elsewhere.
The lawsuit names Irving Independent School District, the city of Irving and the school's principal. District spokeswoman Lesley Weaver said in a statement Monday that attorneys for the district will review the suit and determine a course of action.
"Irving ISD continues to deny violating the student's rights and will respond to claims in accordance with court rules," she said, adding that school officials for now will have no further comment.
The Mohamed family questioned whether the boy was mistreated due to his religion but the district has denied the claim.
The family has since moved to Qatar, citing threats and a scholarship offered to Ahmed in the Persian Gulf country. Ahmed moved back to the U.S. last month for the summer to visit family and friends, and will do some traveling around the country.
Among the claims made in the suit, which was brought by the teen's father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, is that the boy's right to equal protection under the law was violated and that officers arrested him without probable cause.
Ahmed was a victim of systemic discrimination by the school district and state Board of Education that has marginalized Muslims and other minority groups, the suit claims.
"History tells us that when we have stood tall and proud for equality and freedom, we have grown as a nation," the suit says. "When we have given in to fear and hate, we flounder."
The suit adds, "In the case of Ahmed Mohamed, we have the opportunity to take a stand for equality and for justice, two things that should prevail above all else."
Ahmed's story brought an outpouring of support from President Barack Obama, other political leaders, corporate executives and NASA scientists.
Irving ISD officials released the following statement Monday.
Legal counsel for Irving ISD has confirmed that the school district was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed today in Dallas federal court by attorneys for a former Irving ISD student. 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. Because this matter is now in litigation, Irving ISD officials will have no further comment at this time. Irving ISD employees are focused on welcoming 35,000 students for the 2016-2017 academic year and doing everything possible to ensure each student is achieving his or her maximum potential.
The city of Irving released the following statement Monday afternoon.
The city of Irving is prepared to vigorously defend itself and the justifiable actions it took in this matter. The legal process will allow all facts to be revealed, and the city welcomes that opportunity. The city of Irving’s top priority is to ensure the safety and security of its children and the entire community. The city will continue to take its duty and responsibility to serve and protect the public seriously.
A city spokesperson said the city has not yet been served with the lawsuit.