At the Christa McAuliffe Middle School in Houston, TX, eighth grader Danesiah Neal was hauled out of lunch and into the school police office for trying to pay with the uncommon-but-legal $2 bill. As Danesiah recalls, "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." Danesiah never ended up getting lunch.
You may be asking why two dollars on an eighth grader's lunch bill requires police action of any kind, or why there's a school police office, but even more depressing was the fact that the investigation went beyond calling home. Sharon Kay Joseph, Danesiah's grandmother, says a school official called her and asked "Did you give Danesiah a $2 bill for lunch? [The police officer] told me it was fake.” You would think the matter would end there when her grandmother said "yes."
Instead, the school police followed the trail back to the convenience store that had given Sharon Kay Joseph the bill as change, and finally to a bank to prove it was real money. Only then, after school, was the money returned to Danesiah's grandmother. Said Joseph,
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 very outrageous for them to do it. There was no need for police involvement. They’re charging kids like they’re adults now.
This is hardly an isolated incident. As the rest of the ABC13 report (up top) explains, school officers may be in part arresting students for weird felonies because a new TX law makes it harder for them to arrest kids in school for misdemeanors. In the 2013-2014 school year, Houston had 40 such cases of students being arrested and/or charged with felony counterfeiting at school. All 40 of those students were black or Hispanic. Some of the kids in question did use what turned out to be fake bills, but it's unclear whether as children they could tell the difference.
But if a kid was trying to steal two dollars worth of chicken nuggets, why is your first thought not: "why is this kid hungry enough to steal two dollars worth of chicken nuggets?"
Update: This story took place in April, 2016.