Court dismisses “clock boy” suit, citing Greek mythology

A federal court has dismissed the suit filed by the student in Irving ISD who was suspended and arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school.  School officials had asserted that the clock was a “hoax bomb” and thus prohibited from school campus.  The student became known as the “clock boy” and the incident made national headlines. Ultimately, Irving police acknowledged that the arrest was a mistake, but the family sued the city, the school district and the principal.

The court dismissed all of that.  As to the city and the school district, the court concluded that the pleadings in the lawsuit simply failed to connect the dots.  There was much mention of racial disparity in student discipline, along with allegations of widespread discrimination based on race and religion in the community. But the court held that much of this was “conclusory” or “speculative.” There was not enough pleading of specific facts to indicate that either the city or the school district acted with any wrongful intent in this particular case.

The court held that the principal was entitled to qualified immunity.  He did not violate legal standards that were clearly established; nor did he act in an “objectively unreasonable” manner. Key Quotes:

Principals are responsible for the safety of students and others on campus and, as part of that responsibility, often have to make decisions quickly and with little information.

This is not a situation in which a person standing in Principal Cummings’s shoes can take unnecessary risks. It would have been fatuous or nonsensical for Principal Cummings to do nothing and wait for something to occur before acting.

A principal’s fate is not so hapless that, on the one hand, by not taking action he is faced with the gruesome prospect of death or serious injury of persons had the device actually been a bomb and exploded; and on the other hand, he is faced with a federal lawsuit for denial of a student’s constitutional rights because the device turned out not to be a bomb.  Woe unto the principal who fails to act on a potential threat that later becomes a reality!  To hold Principal Cummings, or any other administrator, to this standard places him between the dreaded Scylla and Charbydis.  (Emphasis in original.  A lengthy footnote explains the Greek mythology reference).

The case of Mohamed v. Irving ISD was decided by Judge Sam Lindsay for the federal court for the Northern District of Texas on May 18, 2017.  We found it at 2017 WL 2189414.


 File this one under:  LIABILITY AND IMMUNITY

Have a great weekend, Readers!