Ahmed Mohamed’s lawyers are demanding $15 million, according to letters to the city of Irving, Texas, and Irving Independent School District (ISD) that list their grievances. While it is possible that on one or more issues Mohamed might have a claim, most—if not all—of this lawsuit appears meritless.
Each letter is at times amateurish, marred by typos, missing words, and colloquially casual language. But getting past those imperfections, the gist of Mohamed’s complaint emerges, revealing what issues he would raise in a lawsuit. He claims violations of his rights under the U.S. Constitution and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and possibly hints at violations under Texas law as well.
Each demand letter either contradicts itself in parts, or if not, suggests that his lawyers don’t understand some of the relevant law. They seek to hold the school district corporately liable because of its policies. But elsewhere it says that the fault lies in the school officials disregarding school policies, claiming, “Irving ISD and its employees knowingly disregarded the district’s written policies and procedures by detaining, interrogating, and attempting to coerce a confession from Ahmed.”
Separately, his lawyers claim as a Title VI violation that Ahmed was discriminated against because of “his race, national origin, and religion.” But while Title VI forbids discrimination on the basis of race and national origin, it says nothing about religion. A person can sue for religious discrimination under Title VII, but that only applies to employees being discriminated against by their employers; it has nothing to do with students at a school.
Some of the letter’s allegations are plausible, at least on their face. It cannot be ruled out at this point that questioning went on for some length of time without parents or lawyers present, and if so, the law will take a dim view of the questioners if Ahmed ever asked for his parents or a lawyer. It’s also possible that the questioners decided to try to build a paper trail by getting Ahmed to sign something that included an admission that he brought a device that he intended to resemble a bomb in appearance.
It also seems unlikely that the adults thought that the clock was actually a bomb, or that there might be other potential bombs at the school. If they had believed that, then no doubt emergency protocols would have been triggered immediately, possibly including evacuating the school, or calling in a bomb square to deal with the potential explosives.
The conversation among many law enforcement and prosecutors is that it appears government officials overreacted.
However, some of Mohamed’s claims seem far-fetched. It’s hard to believe that school officials or police officers would actually try to coerce a confession out of a fourteen-year-old. Such an attempt would be such an egregious violation of constitutional rights that it’s hard to believe any sane school principal or police officer would attempt it. It is also virtually impossible that Irving ISD actually has policies to engage in the actions alleged here or routinely keeps such practices without a written policy, one of which would be required for the school district itself to be liable. And the lawyers put forward no facts to show that school officials were intentionally treating Mohamed differently than they would any other student under the circumstances, without which they cannot show any Title VI violation.
Even if there were some non-flagrant violations of proper protocols (like questioning him for too long, if that in fact happened), one thing that is perfectly clear is that Mohamed is not entitled to $15 million in compensatory damages. He’s enjoying a scholarship as a major educational institution in Qatar, and it would be astounding if his lawyers provide evidence to show that he is $15 million worse off as a result of excessive questioning or something similar.
It’s possible that this threat of a lawsuit is just a ploy to get money. Perhaps Mohamed has a couple legitimate points, so decided to make a mountain out of a molehill by adding a host of worthless add-on issues, demand an obscene amount of money, and then expect that the insurance company that covers the police department’s officers will offer them a large settlement to make the whole matter go away. All that is speculation at this point.
It may be unlikely for the school district and city to offer terms now; they might claim that all of these assertions are false, or at minimum that most of the claims are, and fight it out. But however it ends, this demand letter just doesn’t appear to set the stage for a lawsuit that would prove all these matters to a jury.
Ken Klukowski is legal editor for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.