Houston police launched a full-scale forgery investigation after they found an eighth-grader trying to use a $2 bill her grandmother gave her to buy chicken nuggets at school.
Danesiah Neal, a student at Fort Bend Independent School District’s Christa McAuliffe Middle School, was trying to buy her school lunch when officers leaped into action and confiscated her supposedly fake $2 bill, reported ABC News.
“I went to the lunch line, and they said my $2 bill was fake. They gave it to the police. Then they sent me to the police office. A police officer said I could be in big trouble.”
School officials then called Danesiah’s grandmother, Sharon Kay Joseph, demanding to know why the eighth-grade girl was using a fake $2 bill to buy her food, reported the Washington Times.
“Did you give Danesiah a $2 bill for lunch?”
— Houston News (@abc13houston) April 28, 2016
A counterfeiting charge is a third degree felony punishable by 2 to 10 years in jail, and Houston police were taking the crime seriously, much to the chagrin of Danesiah’s grandmother, reports ABC News.
“She’s never in trouble, so I was nervous going in there.”
Local police launched an investigation into the girl’s $2 bill that took them to a local convenience store that gave Joseph the bill and a local bank where employees told officers the 1953 bill was real. The bill was too old for the school’s counterfeit pen to work.
No charges were filed and police eventually returned the eighth-grader’s $2 bill to her, reports the Washington Times.
“He didn’t apologize. He should have, and the school should have because they pulled Danesiah out of lunch, and she didn’t eat lunch that day because they took her money.”
Much more troubling: school children are being 'investigated' for adult-class forgery charges?
— Keeper of Lore (@munin) April 29, 2016
Poor girl gets investigated by police for forgery for trying to use a 2 dollar bill to pay for her school lunch. S [https://t.co/rq71TRri5N]
— /r/Houston Subreddit (@HoustonReddit) April 30, 2016
Joseph wasn’t happy officers had accused her granddaughter of forgery, and she told ABC News the practice of local police charging school children with adult crimes needs to stop.
“It was very outrageous for them to do it. There was no need for police involvement. They’re charging kids like they’re adults now.”
An investigation into three Houston area school districts revealed 40 other forgery charges leveled against mostly minority students between 2013 and 2016; 82 percent of the children who attend Danesiah’s school qualify for free or reduced price lunches.
Most cases are dismissed, however, and those children who have been charges are rarely prosecuted by the district attorney, but Houston area police continue to send officers, most making $45,000 a year, to investigate.
— Houston News (@abc13houston) April 30, 2016
A 13-year-old attending a nearby school is facing 10 years behind bars for using what turned out to be a fake $10 bill to buy his school lunch, despite his parents telling school officials they thought the bill was real, reports ABC News.
“He’s in seventh grade. He doesn’t handle money that much.”
The seventh grader has never been in trouble before and reliably gets A’s and B’s, but he was transferred to an alternative school while his case is pending; it is something critics say is punishment in itself. He qualifies for free lunch paid for by the school.
Critics, including the seventh-grader’s lawyer Mani Nezami, argue the school system unfairly targets low income and minority students, according to ABC News.
“We see a disproportionate impact on minority youth when it comes to these charges.”
What do you think? Should middle school students be investigated for forgery?
[Photo via Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images]