'Clock boy' seeks $21m from US city and school

US teenager Ahmed Mohamed moved to Qatar after he was offered a generous scholarship.
US teenager Ahmed Mohamed moved to Qatar after he was offered a generous scholarship.

WASHINGTON • An American Muslim teenager arrested when a teacher mistook his homemade clock for a bomb has threatened to sue his school and the town of Irving, Texas, for US$15 million (S$21 million).

Ahmed Mohamed, 14, became an overnight sensation in September, his arrest sparking sympathy, outrage and the trending hashtag #StandWithAhmed.

His sister tweeted a photo of the aspiring inventor in handcuffs while wearing a T-shirt with the US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration's logo.

President Barack Obama joined a surge of public support by congratulating the teen on his skills and inviting him to bring the clock to the White House. Invitations also poured in from Facebook, Google and the United Nations. Ahmed later tweeted photos of visits to Mecca, New York, Sudan and Qatar.

But his lawyer insisted on Monday there was a dark side to his fame, which caused "severe psychological trauma", according to a letter notifying the city and school district of his demands.

The son of Sudanese immigrants who lived in a Dallas suburb, the young robotics fan brought in a homemade clock to impress a new teacher at MacArthur High School. Instead, Ahmed was accused of trying to scare people with a hoax bomb and escorted from the school in handcuffs.

His lawyers said the school, police force and city officials violated Ahmed's rights by wrongfully accusing and detaining him, and then decided to "trash" him when the media got wind of the story.

"The only reason for the overreaction was that the responsible adults involved irrationally assumed that Ahmed was dangerous because of his race, national origin and religion," the lawyer wrote in a letter to the City of Irving.

Ahmed told reporters at the time it was "very sad" that his teacher thought his clock was a threat.

The family received threatening e-mails and left their home after their address was publicised. They moved to Qatar after Ahmed was offered a generous scholarship.

His attorneys are seeking US$5 million in damages from the school district and US$10 million from Irving. They will file a civil suit if they do not receive a reply within 60 days.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2015, with the headline ''Clock boy' seeks $21m from US city and school'. Print Edition | Subscribe