14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed brought a home-made clock to school and the day went bad from there.
The arrest of a Dallas-area student Ahmed Mohamed for bringing a home-made clock to school sparked huge controversy on Wednesday. His teachers didn’t like the look of the device and called the police who initially thought it might be a bomb, then a “hoax bomb”
The 14-year-old high school freshman was put in handcuffs and taken to jail, according the initial Dallas Morning News report. A follow-up quoted the Irving, Texas Police chief saying he was confident that this—a bundle of wires and circuit boards—was not an explosive device so no charges will be filed.
The harm was already done as charges of Islamophobia and racism popped in blogs and social media threads. Mohamed is interested in engineering and likes to build things, according to reports. Just the sort of student the country needs to ease a gaping engineering shortage, some said.
Nobody who isn’t inside of the teachers’ or police officers’ heads can know if bigotry was involved but you also have to consider that, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook and Columbine school shootings, administrators and police have to take action when a mystery device shows up at school.
Right now, Newtown, Connecticut is bracing for a legal battle as parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook massacre launched a wrongful death suit.
The fact that we live in a “if you see something, say something” world gives some credence to police chief Larry Boyd’s claim that the response would have been the same regardless of the student’s skin color or religion.
It’s sad to say that we can only hope that is true.
For more on how engineers can change the world, see the video below.
Subscribe to Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the business of technology.