On Ahmed’s Clock, President Obama Once Again Spoke Too Soon

John Lott President, Crime Prevention Research Center
Font Size:

President Obama still hasn’t learned his lesson. He has spoken out yet again before the facts were in. In this case, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed, who was arrested and suspended for bringing an electronic clock to school, was invited to the White House within hours of his story going viral. Obama suggested the visit was to “inspire more kids like you to like science.” Many think it “obvious” the school boy’s religion had played a role in his arrest.

But Mohamed’s story is clearly not what it first appeared, and, even if it was, he should never have been invited by the president.

After Mohamed visits the UN and Mecca, he plans to take up Obama’s invitation to visit the White House. The real question is whether Obama will disinvite the young man or pretend that Mohamed is someone he is not.

Mohamed’s story is unraveling, as a couple of engineers have pointed out, it looks as if his clock was actually an already built commercial alarm clock from a 1986 Radio Shack catalogue. All Mohamed did was remove the clock’s case and put it in a pencil box. Hardly work that proves someone is a scientific prodigy.

Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd also pointed out that when school officials first questioned Mohamed about his device, he would only say it was a clock and was uncooperative, refusing to answer any other questions. Boyd defended his police officers as acting properly by noting: “Under Texas law, a person is guilty of possessing a hoax bomb if possesses a device that is intended to cause anyone to be alarmed or a reaction of any type by law enforcement officers.

It now turns out that Mohamed’s 18-year-old sister, Eyman, was also suspended from the same high school over bomb threats, though her family refuses to sign the necessary papers to let people know what happened in the case.

Of course, with cases such as Henry Louis Gates in Cambridge, Michael Brown in Ferguson, or Trayvon Martin in Florida, this wouldn’t be the first time the president has spoken out before the facts were in.

But the question should never have gone this far.  If there is a problem, it is with the rigid “zero tolerance” rules that compel public schools to handle so-called “weapon” cases the way they do.

Eagle Scouts, honor students, and others have had their college careers derailed by “zero tolerance” policies. Take just some of the bizarre zero tolerance “weapon” cases involving younger students that got national news coverage in 2013.  

— 1st grader was given detention and suspension for bringing a quarter-sized toy gun on a school bus.

— 1st grader who brought a clear plastic toy gun to show and tell was suspended.

— First grader suspended for “talking” about a toy gun with another student.

— Kindergarten girl was suspended for 10 days for saying he was “shooting” a friend with a Hello Kitty bubble-making gun.

— Second grader was suspended for “pointing a pencil at another student and making gun noises.

— Seventh grader was suspended for playing with an airsoft gun in his own front yard

— Seventh grader suspended for having a tiny keychain “gun.”

— Second grader in Baltimore was suspended for biting a Pop-Tart into the shape of a mountain, which school officials mistook for a gun.

But Obama never worried about the fate of those students. Indeed, even Mohamed’s case hasn’t caused him to question the underlying problem.

Despite all the claims of religious discrimination in Mohamed’s case, the cases listed above primarily involve white, non-Muslim, male students.

These zero tolerance cases only accomplish traumatizing students about anything remotely related to guns. Yet, that doesn’t seem to disturb Obama.

Ahmed Mohamed isn’t a young scientific genius who deserves to be lionized. His parents might simply be using him for political reasons.

In any case, there is no reason for Mohamed to be invited to the White House. If President Obama wants to show the irrationality of “zero tolerance” policies, there are lots of students he could invite to the White House.