A Texas grandmother is livid after her granddaughter, Danesiah Neal, was forced to go hungry and subjected to police questioning for trying to pay for chicken nuggets with a $2 bill. The grandmother says she gave her granddaughter a real $2 bill that she received from a convenience store and the Christa McAuliffe Middle School student took it with her to use as lunch money.
However, when Danesiah attempted to purchase some chicken nuggets from the school cafeteria, the $2 bill was confiscated and school officials accused the young girl of using counterfeit money. The police were called and a full-blown counterfeit money investigation was underway.
The Daily Mail reports that a Houston eighth grade student, Danesiah Neal, was reported to police for attempting to use a real $2 bill to pay for her school lunch at Christa McAuliffe Middle School. The incident took place when Danesiah attempted to purchase some chicken nuggets. School officials, thinking the $2 wasn’t real, placed a counterfeit pen mark on the bill and determined it to be a fake. The girl was removed from the lunch room, her $2 confiscated, and police called to the scene of the alleged crime.
The girl says that police told her she was in “big trouble” after responding to the counterfeit money claims and began questioning the student. Danesiah’s grandmother, Sharon Kay Joseph, says she was contacted by the school about the $2 bill and she informed them that she had received the bill from a local convenience store. The school officer then proceeded to the convenience store to question the establishment about the mysterious bill himself. When the store confirmed the grandmother’s story, he then took the bill to the bank to have it verified. The bank informed the officer and school that the $2 bill was real and Danesiah was returned to class.
However, the girl’s grandmother says that the child deserves an apology as she went hungry that day due to the school confiscating her only money. She also points out that it is entirely unnecessary to charge children like Danesiah as adults when it comes to charges of a $2 counterfeit bill.
“He brought me my $2 bill back. 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.”
It was noted that the counterfeit pen used by the school did not work on the $2 bill because it was made in 1953, something that the school officials should have considered when looking at the aging bill.
ABC 7 reports that Danesiah is not the only Houston student to be turned over to police for using “counterfeit” money. In the 2013-2014 school year, the news station reports that 40 Houston students were accused of using counterfeit money. The report does not disclose how many of the cases actually turned out to be fake money, or how many ended like Danesiah’s incident with aging bills to blame. However, what was noted is that the majority of children turned over to authorities for alleged counterfeit activity are disproportionately black and Hispanic. The students are also predominantly from low-income families that qualify for free or reduced lunches.
Students accused of using fake currency at school face the potential of spending two- to 10-years behind bars for forgery, a third-degree felony in Texas. Even innocent students can be punished. According to the ABC report, though many of the cases do not lead to arrest, as many are declined by the district attorney, students can still find themselves moved to “alternative school” while the case is being investigated. Children advocates say for an innocent child this could be considered punishment in itself.
One such case involves a 13-year-old boy who purchased school lunch with a $10 bill that turned out to be fake. Mani Nezami, the attorney representing the child, says that the boy was taken away by police in handcuffs and placed in alternative school while the case was investigated. His name has still not been cleared despite the fact that the child earns no money himself and received the bill from a friend to purchase an upgraded lunch as he was on the free lunch program at school. The boy was described by his lawyer as an A and B student who was wrongly placed in alternative school and could face years in prison and a felony on his record for the school lunch crime.
What do you think about the $2 bill lunch case? Should the school issue an apology to the student for accusing her of a crime she didn’t commit?
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