The police state in Irving, Texas

The outrage perpetrated by MacArthur High School and the Irving, Texas police has been all over the news, and I don’t want to duplicate what everyone has been saying. Some points which haven’t gotten a lot of discussion jump out at me.

The first is that we know Ahmed Mohamed’s name at all. Normally when 14-year-olds are arrested, their names are kept strictly out of the news. Instead, the Irving police have been saying all kinds of things about their actions, and what they’re saying damns them. From a local news story:

Officers said Ahmed was being “passive aggressive” in his answers to their questions, and didn’t have a “reasonable answer” as to what he was doing with the case. Investigators said the student told them that it was just a clock that he was messing around with.

“We attempted to question the juvenile about what it was and he would simply only say it was a clock. He didn’t offer any explanation as to what it was for, why he created this device, why he brought it to school,” said James McLellan, Irving Police.

When you’re being questioned by the police, you say as little as possible. Anything you say can be used against you. Mohamed is only 14, but he’s clearly smart, and he avoided saying any unnecessary words. But McLellan thinks he can arrest people for not saying as much as he wants:

“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.”

MacArthur High School principal Dan Cummings reportedly threatened to expel Mohamed for not making a written statement. So much for the Bill of Rights.

The school district has been just as bad. Lesley Weaver, speaking for the school district, said, “We were doing everything with an abundance of caution to protect all of our students in Irving.” “Abundance of caution” has become the standard term for outrageous governmental action. If they thought there was a bomb and were being cautious, the officials would have evacuated the school or removed the clock from the grounds immediately. They did neither. They did, however, deny him contact with his parents while questioning him.

When they found themselves being blasted nationwide, the school officials retreated into silence. They closed their Twitter account to public view. They suddenly decided they’re very concerned about Mohamed’s “right to privacy” while continuing to imply that his arrest was necessary for the safety of the students, that he had a “suspicious item” and was engaging in “suspicious behavior.”

Picture of Ahmed Mohamed's clock projectThey claimed the device “looked like” a bomb. I’m no explosives expert, but to me the one thing that can make something look like a bomb is a rigid, sealed container large enough to hold an explosive charge. Without something to contain a strongly exothermic reaction till it bursts, you don’t get an explosion. I’ve included the police picture of the clock. The case shown is presumably the pencil case Mohamed is said to have brought the clock to school in.

Perhaps to the “abundantly cautious” mind, a pencil case looks like a bomb, but how could anyone take the electronics inside for a bomb?? The WFAA report says that “officers said the clock and wires inside his Vaultz pencil case looked like a hoax bomb to them.” Yet, for all their “abundance of caution,” they did not call in a bomb squad, but brought the “bomb” right into the police station!

Ken White got it right in his comments on this issue: “American lives are controlled by the thuggishly mediocre.”

Update: Earlier I’d included a recommendation that people support a GoFundMe campaign in his support. I’ve since learned that GoFundMe is very selective in the causes it allows, so I’ve pulled the recommendation.

One Response to “The police state in Irving, Texas”

  1. Eyal Mozes Says:

    I very much agree. Let me add an additional point, which as far as I’ve seen no one has raised in discussions of this so far.

    What happened to Mohamed is a very strong illustration of the importance of school choice. The incident demonstrates how no one at the school (with apparently the single exception of the engineering teacher he showed this to first) could understand a bright boy showing initiative and curiosity. Like many other public schools, Macarthur high school expects its students to fit into a mold, and anyone who doesn’t is treated with hostility and suspicion. That is one of the many problems that school choice programs – whether vouchers, scholarship tax credits, or education savings accounts – are designed to alleviate, helping exceptional students find schools that can fit their special needs or special abilities.

    Mohamed’s parents are clearly aware that he has a gifted son; if Texas had had a school choice program that Mohamed was eligible for, his parents would very likely would have found a more fitting school long before this incident. And even had Mohamed gone to a public high school, the principal would have known that Mohamed’s parents can easily transfer him to another school, and that his school will lose the funds that come with the student, and would consequently have made some effort to treat him reasonably.

    If Obama had said something in response to this incident about the failure of public schools to deal with students that don’t fit the mold, and perhaps suggested that he’s going to re-think his long-time hostility to school choice and urge fellow Democrats to do the same, that would certainly have done a lot more good than the cynical political theatre of inviting Mohamed to the White House.

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