WASHINGTON, DC – The same day Texas police announced that a teenager falsely suspected of making a bomb would not be charged, President Barack Obama invited the student to the White House.
“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,” the POTUS Twitter account tweeted.
Ahmed Mohamed, who plans to become an engineer, went to his high school in Irving, Texas, on Monday with the goal of showing his teacher a digital clock he’d made from a pencil case.
But the 14-year-old’s day did not end with high praise. Instead, an English teacher reported Ahmed’s project, which prompted school officials to call police. A photo shows Ahmed being led out of school in handcuffs and a NASA T-shirt.
“They arrested me and they told me that I committed the crime of a hoax bomb, a fake bomb,” the freshman later explained.
Mohamed repeatedly told police that what they believed to be a bomb was actually a clock. He said they would not allow him to contact his father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, who ran for president of Sudan earlier this year.
“My son is a very brilliant boy,” the father told CNN. “We need people like him in this country.”
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan agreed.
“We need to be encouraging young engineers, not putting them in handcuffs. #IStandWithAhmed,” Duncan tweeted.
The White House invited Ahmed to Astronomy Night in October, an annual event that brings together astronauts, scientists and other professionals.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday that the incident “is a good illustration of how pernicious stereotypes can prevent even goodhearted people who have dedicated their lives to educating young people from doing the good work they set out to do.
“The president, like many of us, was struck by the news reports of this particular incident. The fact is, America’s best teachers and our schools and our best schools, at least, nurture the intellectual curiously of all of our students. And this instance, it’s clear that at least some of Ahmed’s teachers failed him,” Earnest said.
Police announced Wednesday that the teen will not be charged, but Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed said he is not sure if his son will return to school Thursday. School officials said they were cooperating with authorities on the matter.
“We always ask our students and staff to immediately report if they observe any suspicious items and/or suspicious behavior,” the school’s statement reads. “If something is out of the ordinary, the information should be reported immediately to a school administrator and/or the police so it can be addressed right away. We will always take necessary precautions to protect our students and keep our school community as safe as possible.”
In the meantime, Ahmed was racking up invitations from top tech companies. Google invited him on Twitter to this weekend’s Google Science Fair.
— Twitter (@Twitter) September 16, 2015
And Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg invited the teen to stop by his company in a statement posted on his page.
“Having the skill and ambition to build something cool should lead to applause, not arrest. The future belongs to people like Ahmed.
“Ahmed, if you ever want to come by Facebook, I’d love to meet you. Keep building,” Zuckerberg wrote.