A La Center High senior was suspended from school Wednesday, April 22 for strapping a fake bomb around his waist in a stunt to ask a girl to prom.
The situation caused a short-lived scare among administrators until they confirmed the prop wasn't a real weapon and the student, Ibrahim Ahmad, was not making threats. Nonetheless, the stunt landed Ahmad with a five-day suspension that will keep him from going to the school's prom on Saturday night.
Ahmad said he felt pressure to go all out in asking his would-be date to the big dance.
"In 'promposals,' you're supposed to go big," he said. "It's kind of a trending thing now, too, where everyone just asks in a really creative way."
So during lunchtime, Ahmad strapped a paintball vest to his waist and filled the open pockets with red paper tubes attached to red wires, a prop made to look like explosives. And he stood up on the stage in the cafeteria holding a sign that read: "I kno it's A little Late, But I'm kinda...THE BOMB! Rilea, Will U Be My Date To Prom?"
"I'm Middle Eastern, and I thought the bomb was kind of funny and clever," he said. "I wasn't wearing the vest for more than, like, 20 seconds. I asked her, took a picture, took it off, and then the school got upset."
Ahmad contends he didn't break any school rules and the girl, Rilea Wolfe, said yes. But school Superintendent Mark Mansell said Ahmad clearly deserved some sort of punishment for disrupting the learning environment.
"I want all my kids to feel safe and supported, but there's a line," Mansell said. "Given the way the world is today and school safety, even if one parent or one student was upset about this, it causes issues."
Students didn't appear alarmed at the situation, Mansell said. A cellphone video from the audience also shows some in the crowd laughing and cheering after Ahmad came out on stage.
Nonetheless, Ahmad's actions were inexcusable and the district needed to send a message, Mansell said.
"To me, it's just blatant disrespect," he said. "The student knew that the principal wouldn't support this and he went ahead and did it anyway."
Ahmad, 18, said he understands how his actions could be misunderstood. Since they won't be dancing with their classmates, they will likely have a dinner date.
But he feels the administration overreacted, and he questions whether his race came into play.
"It was really unfair, and it kind of felt racist," Ahmad said. "If anyone else did that, I feel like no one else would have gotten in trouble for it."