Ahmed Mohamed, who enjoys tinkering with electronics, proudly took the clock to MacArthur High in the city of Irving on Monday.
But one teacher raised concerns that it looked like a bomb, prompting the school principal and several police officers to question him, search his belongings and march him from the school in handcuffs. Police do not believe the device is dangerous, but said it could be mistaken for a fake explosive.
Ahmed was suspended from school for three days, but he has not been charged.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations is investigating, saying the incident is typical of the negative attitudes toward Muslims in Irving.
Ahmed said he loved robotics and engineering and wanted to show his teachers what he could do.He added his engineering teacher told him “that’s really nice”, but advised him “not to show any other teachers”.
The teenager said that another teacher became aware of it when the device beeped during the lesson.
“She was like, it looks like a bomb,” he said. “I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me.’”
He said the teacher kept the clock, and later in the day he was pulled out lessons and interviewed by the school’s headteachers and five police officers, before being taken to a juvenile detention centre where he had his fingerprints taken.
Ahmed said he was unable to contact his parents during the questioning. In a video from the Dallas Morning News, he said the incident made him feel like he “wasn’t a human”, but a “criminal”.
A police spokesman said that, throughout the interview, Ahmed had maintained that he built only a clock, but said the boy was unable to give a “broader explanation” as to what it would be used for.
“It could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car. The concern was what was this thing built for? Do we take him into custody?” he added.
The school has not commented on the case, but said in a statement that it “always ask our students and staff to immediately report if they observe any suspicious items and/or suspicious behaviour”.
Ahmed’s father Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, who is originally from Sudan, said his son “just wants to invent good things for mankind, but because his name is Mohamed and because of 11 September I think my son got mistreated”.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations agreed.
“I think this wouldn’t even be a question if his name wasn’t Ahmed Mohamed,” said Alia Salem, of the local branch.