Wednesday, 23 December 2015

First "Clock Boy," Now "Backpack Boy," What's Next?

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In a Dallas suburb earlier this month, a 12-year-old Sikh boy, Armaan Singh, was arrested for bringing a backpack with a built-in mobile phone charger to school and claiming it was a bomb. His family and friends are claiming he was targeted because of his religion and race. It sounds like a bad sequel to the story of Ahmed Mohamed and the "clock" he claimed to have "invented."

Three months after Ahmed Mohamed was detained by police after officials at another Dallas area school reported that he had a device that looked like a bomb, Armaan Singh joked with another student in class about a battery pack he had in his backpack. He told the boy it was a bomb and that he was going to blow up Nichols Junior High School, according to both the school and police in the Dallas suburb of Arlington, Texas. The Dallas Morning News reports that Singh was arrested on Friday, December 11 and held for three days in a juvenile detention facility until a judge could review the case.

Police pulled the young boy out of class, evacuated the classroom while they examined the backpack, handcuffed him, and took him to the juvenile jail even though they "realized the threat was a hoax" because they say "he confessed to making up the threat," according to the Dallas Morning News. Singh and his family claim the other boy is responsible. The newspaper said:

Armaan says he thought the classmate was kidding Friday when he said at the start of their pre-AP history class that he would tell the teacher Armaan had a bomb. A day earlier, the classmate had joked that Armaan's backpack, which had a battery charger in it, looked like a bomb.

"I thought it was a joke, so I started laughing and he started laughing," Armaan recalled. "The next thing you know, I'm reading with my friend and police come in, grab me and take me outside."

So, with all of the protestations of Singh and his family duly noted, the fact is that he admitted he made the threat; he just said it was only "a joke."

Lt. Christopher Cook, a spokesman for the Arlington police department, said, "People have got to learn they cannot make these types of threats, which cause alarm, which cause evacuations. Just because you say it's a joke, it doesn't get you out of trouble." The Arlington Independent School District (AISD) — which has to choose its words carefully because of student privacy agreements — also released a statement, saying, "The AISD will do what is necessary to maintain the safety and security of its students, and we are confident that our actions are appropriate in all respects."

Singh's cousin, 22-year-old Ginee Haer, took to Facebook with a vulgarity laden post that — as of this writing — has almost 30,000 likes. Of course there were the obligatory hashtags, #‎JusticeForArmaan‬ and ‪#‎SikhLivesMatter‬, with ‪#‎HumanityMatters‬ getting an honorable mention. In part of her on-line rant, she wrote:

On Friday, December 11th, 2015, my cousin attended school, like any other normal 12 year old child. A bully in class thought it would be funny to accuse him of having a bomb, and so the principal, without any questioning, interrogation, or notification to his parents, called the police. Worried & frightened at home, his family was concerned as to why he had not reached home right after school. They started calling every police department in the area, only to find out he was sent to a Juvenile facility. They kept him held behind bars for three consecutive days, before finally releasing him on Monday, December 15th.

While she claims that "his family was concerned as to why he had not reached home right after school" and had to call around to find what had happened to him, AISD officials say they did call the family, though because of the laws regarding the privacy of students, they could not give details about whether they reached them, left a message, or contacted them in another way.

Haer's Facebook post goes on to say:

It hurts my heart and boils my blood that there are people stupid enough out there not only accusing us, but our innocent children of being terrorists! It sickens me even more that there are people even more stupid out there, taking their word for it. My cousin is a minor and was arrested without any evidence or guardian present! This should show you how [expletive deleted] up the system is! There are good people out there, but the majority of the system is corrupt! All these [expletive deleted] see is race & the color of your skin! He's more than what meets the eye people! I'm more, you're more, we're all more! The color of your skin does not define who you are! Please help share this post to open people's eyes to the [expletive deleted] that goes on in our system #‎JusticeForArmaan‬ ‪#‎SikhLivesMatter‬ ‪#‎HumanityMatters‬

Haer edited her original post to include the hashtags that now end her rant. The original carried the hashtags #excusemyfrench, #sorrynotsorry, and #theyhithome. Perhaps even she realized the hypocrisy of demeaning an entire nationality by referring to their language as being synonymous with vulgarity while decrying the evils of racism. Her use of the hashtag # SikhLivesMatter is clearly designed to invoke sympathy by making this seem like a case of a "system" that is "[expletive deleted] up" persecuting her religion.

Furthermore, considering her social-media prowess, it is hard to believe that Haer is unaware of the recent arrests made by local area police departments over bomb threats, including the one involving the #IstandWithAhmed hashtag. So, when her cousin joked about having a bomb and blowing up the school, both the school and the police acted according to protocol to protect the students, faculty, and staff. If Armaan Singh didn't want to be treated like a terrorist, he shouldn't have acted like one. Threatening to blow up a school is a terrorist threat, after all.

Lt. Christopher Cook said, "We're very concerned about the proliferation of these threats over the few months. This is serious stuff in the day and age that we live in. We have to respond to these emerging threats."

As to the claims that the seventh grader was "framed" by the other student and singled out by school officials and police for racial or religious reasons, Cook said that played no part in the investigation. "The suspect never told us anything about being bullied," he said. "Ethnicity or race does not figure into our investigation in any way. There is nothing in the report that would indicate that the suspect was set up."

Singh's family has said they are afraid that his arrest will keep him from realizing his dream of becoming a mechanical engineer. Well, at least he didn't claim to have invented backpacks with mobile phone chargers.

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