Ahmed Mohamed, whom many remember is the student who brought a clock to school that was mistaken by administrators as a bomb, is listed as a plaintiff in the civil rights lawsuit filed by his father against the Irving School District and the City of Irving. The lawsuit states that, among many other grievances, the school encouraged systematic racism, there is strong anti-Muslim sentiment throughout the city, and Ahmed was interrogated and not allowed contact with his parents or a lawyer.
All of these, if proven true in court, are severe violations of Ahmed’s civil rights.
what is a civil rights violation?
Civil rights law covers a broad spectrum of legislation, and is applicable in a wide variety of circumstances. A civil rights violation has occurred if someone is discriminated against based on their age, gender, race, color, religion, disability, origin or genetic information. Ahmed’s case covers two, maybe three (race, color and religion) of those things. We should mention the difference between race and color, in a civil rights context, basically means that discrimination based on someone’s ethnic background, and the pigmentation or complexion of one’s skin, are similar but not synonymous forms of discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act describes this in detail.
These types of lawsuits have been filed numerous times against school districts across the country. One example comes from Eugene, OR, where the family of Grace Williams filed a discrimination suit against the Eugene School District. The lawsuit alleged that the school failed to properly evaluate and educate Grace, who was diagnosed with autism, and she earned just one and a half credits in two years of schooling. The judge ruled in her favor, awarding 570 hours of compensatory education and a compensation of attorney fees as well.
There are many other cases of civil rights lawsuits being filed against a school. A former Obama administration official filed a lawsuit against the Montgomery County school system, claiming they discriminate against minority children in its language immersion programs. A complaint was filed against Portland Public Schools for what was viewed as intentionally denying minority children equal access to education. All of these lawsuits have been filed this year.
It’s such a common occurrence, that the U.S. Department of Education has a “how-to” page on their website. There are a few things that someone has to do, and they actually require that a complainant filing on behalf of someone else (such as the case here with Ahmed and his father) get permission from the person for whom they are filing. So Ahmed had to give his approval to his father before they could file. The DOE takes all complaints very seriously, but someone must file the grievance within 180 days of the most recent act of discrimination, the complainant has 20 days to respond to any information requests by the DOE, lest they drop the case.
We’ll update as events warrant, but given the established precedent, it’s hard to see this case not working out in Ahmed’s favor.
*Featured image from Harrison Jones, via Wiki Commons