Following Protocol

#IStandWithAhmed. Illustration by David Juarez.
#IStandWithAhmed. Illustration by David Juarez.
#IStandWithAhmed. Illustration by David Juarez.
#IStandWithAhmed. Illustration by David Juarez.

Ahmed Mohamed’s arrest highlighted the issue of Islamophobia in schools. The Ed Board examines the strictly cautious policies that led to his arrest.

Last week, a student in Irving, Texas was arrested, released and suspended from his high school due to an alleged “bomb” that turned out to be a homemade digital clock inside a briefcase-like pencil box. The student’s name is Ahmed Mohamed. He is an identified Muslim, and he is also Sudanese. These hard facts, laced within the overarching story of his arrest, have spurred social media activists to call out America’s Islamophobia and produce the centralizing hashtag to rapid news dissemination: #IStandWithAhmed. And, let the UCSD Guardian’s Editorial Board be clear before moving forward: We don’t agree with Ahmed’s detainment, and the situation is so heavily intertwined with socio-cultural factors that it can’t be disregarded, but what the school did — the call for police, the suspension — was protocol as usual.

Countless numbers of individuals and organizations, big and small, weighed in. A tweet from President Barack Obama here, some top-notch technological gadgets from Microsoft Corp. over there. Sprinkle it all with a few college invitations from world-renowned universities like Harvard and MIT and we have a best-case scenario post-arrest. Mohamed’s minor debacle with Texan school administration and law enforcement is now a major triumph for religious minority students to combat prejudice and pursue their own interests and passions. And the story should’ve ended here, with the uplifting turn of events, but it didn’t.

Conservative website Breitbart News Network released “The Real Story of #IStandWithAhmed,” stating that the social media uproar “stinks of leftist exploitation.” Writer Ben Shapiro concluded that Ahmed’s case isn’t “a national scandal” but that the local authorities and school faculty were following school district protocol. Even Irving police chief Larry Boyd, according to the New York Times, argued that Ahmed’s detainment was based on the information that there was a potential bomb at the local high school. This was their primary reason for arrest and questioning of Mohamed.

The officers were not informed that the suspected “bomb” was also an alarm clock, which was the reason for the beeping in the middle of class. Irving’s Mayor Beth Van Duyne, in the same New York Times piece, wrote on Facebook that she was not placing fault on the high school or law enforcement for their actions and investigating a possible threat. Despite acknowledging that following protocol is justified, Van Duyne emphatically noted that she would not want that to happen to her children either.

Shapiro, Boyd, Van Duyne — they all have their points. And so does Mohamed’s high school English teacher at Irving. In its 2015–16 Student Code of Conduct, the Irving Independent School District states under “General Conduct Violations, Possession of Prohibited Items” that “students shall not possess or use: a ‘look-alike’ weapon.” Although the terminology is vague, the teacher, law enforcement and news reports repeatedly use words such as “fake” or “hoax” bomb, which easily translate over to “look-alike” weapon. That is a clear strike against Mohamed in this situation and one that strongly supports the teacher’s actions to err on the safe side and call the police for a suspected bomb. In fact, it can easily be the only reason for her to call law enforcement to investigate the situation.

The Irving ISD’s Board Policy Manual, Section F: “Students, sub-section FNCG (LOCAL): Student Conduct — Weapons, states that “students should not possess: 6. Any other object used in a way that threatens or inflicts bodily injury to another person, or that the principal or designee determines presents a danger to any student, District employee, or District property by virtue of possession or use of the object.” A violation of this code results in disciplinary action laid out by the SCOC. More so, the FNCG and the “look-alike” weapon clause pair nicely to further suggest the teacher’s judgement was made in earnest and in regard for safety. A three-day suspension, which was given to Ahmed after the incident, is how Section F: Students, sub-section FOB: Student Discipline — Out-of-School Suspension (Education Code 37.005) outlines procedure.

With that as a framework toward the teacher’s actions, it all stacks up. In the district “where children come first,” the teacher’s actions were led by this mantra and were earnest attempts at putting the lives of students in the safety of law enforcement. Quite simply, Mohamed’s arrest followed protocol as usual.

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