- - Sunday, May 21, 2017


Racial and religious discrimination is easy to allege and difficult to prove, but taking offense has become the nation’s fastest growing industry. Tort lawyers tend the industry with great care and concern.

But the industry took a hit last week. A federal judge dismissed a law suit by “the Texas clock boy,” so called, who was detained and suspended from classes when he took a homemade clock to school in September 2015 and his teacher was frightened by its beeping, thinking it was an explosive device.

U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay in Dallas dismissed claims against the city of Irving, which adjoins Dallas, and MacArthur High School of Irving because the court could not “reasonably infer that any [school] employee intentionally discriminated against Ahmed Mohamed based on his race or religion.” The boy is a Muslim.

A claim against the school principal, whom the lawsuit alleged had violated Ahmed’s civil rights and treated him unfairly, was dismissed as well. Judge Lindsay wrote that the complaint “does not allege that [the principal] treated [young Mohamed] differently than other similarly situated students and that the unequal treatment was based on religion or race.”

The boy assembled the clock from a circuit board and digital display and took it to school, he said, to show his teachers. One of the teachers heard it beeping and took the boy and the clock to the principal’s office. The principal was not satisfied with the boy’s explanation for his device, and called police. He was handcuffed, questioned and suspended from classes for three days.

The incident exploded on social media with claims that it reflected institutional mistreatment of Muslims, and Mohamed was eventually invited to the White House to meet President Obama. The lawsuit was filed the next year and asked for $15 million in damages.

The teacher and the principal, it seems to us, could have resolved their fears without a fuss, with Ahmed disassembling his clock, and the principal could have dispensed with making it an incident to be settled by the police and the courts. In normal times, that’s probably how it would have been settled.

But ours, alas, are not normal times. We may never see “normal times” again. The prospect of terrorism, for good reason, frightens many and concerns all of us. Everyone is told that “if you see something, say something,” and violent terrorism has become a “normal” part of the lives of all. The fact that young Ahmed is a Muslim seems, by all accounts, irrelevant, and the federal judge so held. Ahmed, also by all accounts, is a bright lad with a lively interest in his studies, and we are likely to hear good things from him in the years ahead.

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