Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
An Irving teenager whose arrest for bringing a homemade clock to school drew a national outcry, said Wednesday that he would probably be transferring schools.
Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old student at MacArthur High School, was handcuffed and taken into custody Monday after a teacher expressed concerns that the clock might be a bomb. Ahmed was initially charged with making a “hoax bomb” and released to the custody of his parents. His story, first reported by The Dallas Morning News, drew a firestorm on social media and generated headlines across the nation.
Ahmed announced his plans to change schools Wednesday afternoon during a news conference in front of his home with family members, a representative from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and his family's lawyer.
"I'm the person that built a clock and got in a lot of trouble for it," said Ahmed, who built the clock to impress one of his teachers. "When I showed it to her, she thought that it was a threat to her. It's really sad that she took a wrong impression of it and I got arrested for it later that day...I'm thinking about transferring schools."
He did not provide information about where he might transfer.
In a separate news conference Wednesday, Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd said that the arrest had nothing to do with the student’s race and that the arresting officers quickly determined there was no immediate threat the device would detonate, which is why they did not evacuate the high school. The officers weren’t sure if Ahmed had intended to cause alarm, so they took him into custody, Boyd said.
“Our follow-up investigation was to determine whether there was intent created by what the student brought to school, or whether it was just a naive set of circumstances, with him not recognizing the suspicious nature of the situation,” Boyd said at a news conference.
Asked if a white student would have been treated differently, he said, “Our reaction would have been the same either way.”
The department has since closed the investigation, because police are satisfied that Ahmed was not trying to provoke a reaction, Boyd said. Ahmed has been suspended for three days from school.
During Wednesday's press conference, Ahmed said Irving police have yet to return his clock.
News of Ahmed's arrest prompted a significant wave of support on Twitter, under the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed. Those who have weighed in on social media include President Obama. A tweet from his @POTUS account said, “Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great.”
Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, said Ahmed's arrest raises questions about racial profiling in Texas public schools.
"Instead of encouraging his curiosity, intellect, and ability, the Irving ISD saw fit to throw handcuffs on a frightened 14 year-old Muslim boy wearing a NASA T-shirt and then remove him from school," Burke said in a statement. "The state of Texas in general, and Irving ISD in particular, need to take a long, hard look at their disciplinary policies to ensure that blanket prejudices and the baseless suspicions they engender don't deprive our students of an educational environment where their talents can thrive."
Lesley Weaver, director of communications for the Irving Independent School District, said she felt the public reaction is the result of “very unbalanced” information.
“We were doing everything with an abundance of caution to protect all of our students in Irving,” she said.
Ahmed's family could not be reached for comment for this article.
A spokesman for the Irving Police Department, James McLellan, told the Tribune that arresting Ahmed was the appropriate course of action.
“When we attempted to question the student about what it was, what it was for, why he brought it to school, he only said it was a clock,” McLellan said. “Not knowing what he was going to do or why he had it, with the information they had, the arrest was appropriate.”
Although Ahmed explained that the device was a clock he’d made himself, McLellan said, Ahmed declined to provide other information.
“He was very short and abrupt with the officers, and he would maintain to us only that it was a clock,” McLellan said. “If he’d been more — if he’d explained what he explained to the media — I’d venture to say the outcome may well have been different.”
Ahmed, whose father is an immigrant from Sudan, told The News that he is passionate about inventing.
“The clock itself, it was in a box you could get at Target for like five, ten dollars, and they’re telling me it’s a suitcase, a briefcase, a moving bomb,” Ahmed told The News. “I never said anything about a bomb. It made me feel like I wasn’t human. It made me feel like a criminal.”