Anyone can sue and so “Clock Boy” Ahmed is contemplating suing. He and his family may want $15 million, but a Texas juvenile law expert says his claims have little merit to win a case in court.
Attorney Laura Peterson, who chaired the Texas State Bar of Juvenile Law last year and defends minors in court regularly, saw little merit in Ahmed’s legal claims. She debunked key allegations made by West Texas lawyer Kelly Hollingsworth, the latest legal counsel representing the Mohamed family’s interests. Peterson spoke to the Dallas Morning News, an outlet which championed an Islamophobia victim narrative since Ahmed’s Sept. 14 arrest, while trashing city and school officials.
The family threatened two lawsuits this week – one against the City of Irving and the other, against the local school district, for alleged civil rights violations that resulted in purported physical and mental anguish as a result of the incident. In separate demand letters, Hollingsworth alleged that officials refused Ahmed’s request to contact his parents in the principal’s office and later, at the Irving police station, saying this violated the Texas Juvenile Justice code. Peterson, however, called that “incorrect” information.
“There is no right for the child to call their parents, she told the Dallas newspaper. “The only magic words are ‘I want to talk to my lawyer.’ He didn’t say that.”
Peterson added: “The law requires police to promptly notify Ahmed’s parents after taking him into custody. What constitutes ‘prompt’ and ‘in custody’ is often decided in court.”
Hollingsworth attempted to split hairs over the definitions of what qualified as “in custody” and as “prompt.” While Peterson agreed with Hollingsworth that Ahmed was probably “in custody” once his principal took him to a room full of police officers for questioning, prior to when they handcuffed him later, she told the newspaper the family would have a difficult time arguing that police unnecessarily delayed notifying Ahmed’s parents.
Additionally, Texas Education Agency (TEA) spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe told Breitbart Texas by email, “I can’t think of anything in state law that deals with who should be present when a student is brought to the principal’s office.”
Hollingsworth also claimed that Ahmed should have been read his rights upon arrest but Peterson said, that is not so. “Police don’t Mirandize juveniles.” The law requires minors’ rights to be read by a judge in a room without police officers present to avoid any hint of intimidation. Peterson pointed out that even a botched Miranda warning was a moot point in this instance because officers filed no charges against Ahmed Mohamed.
Breitbart Texas reported that once the situation sorted itself out, Ahmed only received three days of out-of-school suspension as punishment. Hollingsworth disagreed with that action. Peterson cited the school district’s Student Code of Conduct, which listed “look-alike” weapons under prohibited items, how officials perceived the teen’s homemade dismantled commercial clock stuffed into case.
Even at the earliest press conference following Ahmed’s arrest, Irving school district officials cited the Student Code of Conduct handbook as their guiding resource. The Irving ISD Student Code of Conduct includes a whole slew of potential violations written in accordance with the state’s 1995 Safe Schools Act and Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code. It addresses threats, hoaxes, plus perceived and sometimes even discretionary threats and their often harsh blanket consequences. In Texas, the education code grants school districts broad discretionary leeway and the authority to refer students for those discretionary offenses deemed “disruptive.”
Ratcliffe confirmed. She noted that state law in the Texas Education Code, Chapter 37 “sets out some broad guidelines, such as when a student can be removed from the regular classroom and sent to an disciplinary alternative program.”
One of Hollingsworth’s semantic arguments was the Ahmed was not in possession of a prohibited item but Peterson disagreed, siding with the school. “I don’t think the school necessarily did anything wrong,” she said. “The teacher thought it looks like a bomb. Is that enough for your ‘look-alike weapon’ [which is prohibited in the code of conduct]? It very well may be.”
Peterson added that since schools have a much lower burden of proof to punish children, she suspected that Irving ISD doled out “the lowest level of punishment — a three-day suspension.”
Said Ratcliffe, “The policies a district follows are spelled out in their local disciplinary policies and probably their student code of conduct.” According to the Student Code of Conduct, students may be suspended for any behavior listed as a general conduct violation. “Look-alike” weapons fall into this classification.
The Mohameds may ultimately sue the City of Irving for $10 million and Irving ISD for $5 million but as to whether they can win a lawsuit, based on Peterson’s remarks, Ahmed might not like what she had to say.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.