Irving, Texas Mayor Beth Van Duyne is defending law enforcement and school officials who were involved in the arrest and suspension of Ahmed Mohamed, a Muslim 14-year-old ninth-grader who brought a homemade clock to school that teachers mistook for a bomb.
“I do not fault the school or the police for looking into what they saw as a potential threat,” Van Duyne wrote in a statement posted to her Facebook page Wednesday.
Van Duyne said school and law enforcement officials were simply following school protocols when a “possible threat” or “criminal act” is discovered.
“To the best of my knowledge, they followed protocol for investigating whether this was an attempt to bring a Hoax Bomb to a school campus,” Van Duyne wrote. “I hope this incident does not serve as a deterrent against our police and school personnel from maintaining the safety and security of our schools.”
Ahmed, who told The Dallas Morning News that he loves robotics and tinkering with gadgets, decided to build a clock by linking a circuit board, a power supply and a digital clock display together inside a pencil case. He thought he might impress some teachers by bringing the clock to school.
Instead, he found himself pulled out of class and taken to the principal's office, where he says he was threatened with expulsion and interrogated -- all the while insisting that he had, in fact, only built a clock. School officers sent him to a detention center, where they took his fingerprints and a mugshot. He was later released to his parents and all charges were dropped against him when police realized the clock wasn't a bomb after all.
Ahmed was suspended for three days from MacArthur High School by Irving School District administrators.
“We have all seen terrible and violent acts committed in schools," Van Duyne added. "Perhaps some of those could have been prevented and lives could have been spared if people were more vigilant."
Later, Van Duyne edited this portion of her Facebook statement, removing the language and replacing it with somewhat softer tones, but still offered no apology to Ahmed or his family, and refrained from using Ahmed's name. She instead referred to him as simply "the student."
"As a parent, I agree that if this happened to my child I would be very upset," Van Duyne wrote in an updated statement. "It is my sincere desire that Irving ISD students are encouraged to use their creativity, develop innovations and explore their interests in a manner that fosters higher learning. Hopefully, we can all learn from this week’s events and the student, who has obvious gifts, will not feel at all discouraged from pursuing his talent in electronics and engineering."
Meanwhile, other politicians like President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as high-profile scientists, have rallied around Ahmed and his passion for science.
The Dallas Morning News recently described Van Duyne as being "a hero among the fringe movement that believes Muslims -- a tiny fraction of the U.S. population -- are plotting to take over American culture and courts." This reputation ballooned earlier this year after she announced she was looking into rumors that a local mosque was attempting to establish the first court of "Sharia law," the Muslim code of law and morality, in Irving. Politifact later rated this claim as false, detailing that some regional Muslims were offering "Sharia-governed, non-binding mediation services" in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including Irving, but no Sharia court was being opened in town. About a month later, she supported a bill that would forbid Texas judges from using foreign law in their rulings, which is already illegal.
Critics of Van Duyne call her actions anti-Islamic, but Van Duyne says she's simply "proud to be an American" and just supporting the constitutions of the United States and Texas.