14-year-old Daneisha Neal is an eighth grader at Christa McAuliffe Middle School in Houston, Texas. Recently, Daneisha was almost sent to prison by the school’s police department because they thought the $2 bill she tried to use to pay for her lunch was counterfeit.
82 percent of the students at Daneisha’s school are poor enough to qualify for reduced or free lunch. Her grandmother gave the eight-grader the 2 dollar bill. When she tried to use the bill to pay for her chicken tenders, the lunch lady became alarmed and contacted the campus police officer.
Daneisha who had never been in any trouble in her life, explained what happened:
I went to the lunch line and they said my $2 bill was fake,” Danesiah told Ted Oberg Investigates. “They gave it to the police. Then they sent me to the police office. A police officer said I could be in big trouble.
The young lady wasn’t just in “big trouble,” she was potentially in third-degree felony trouble.
School administrators contacted Daneisha’s grandmother, Sharon Kay Joseph to investigate.
She’s never in trouble, so I was nervous going in there,” she recalled to abc13.
The officials asked, “Did you give Danesiah a $2 bill for lunch?’ He told me it was fake,” she said.
Shortly after the phone call, Fort Bend ISD (Independent School District) police started a thorough investigation into the origins of the suspect cash.
The campus police officer went to the convenience store where the grandmother said she had been given the $2 bill. He then took a trip the store’s bank where they managed to confirm that the “funny money” was indeed real.
You see, the bill dated back to 1953, which was before the Treasury started using money that would react to a counterfeit pen.
After the officer had finished his investigation, one could imagine that he wanted to rush back to the school to reassure the young lady that she did nothing wrong and apologize for worrying her. Right?
He brought me my two dollar bill back,” Joseph said. 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.
Far too often with black children, police take the attitude of “well, we’ll be keeping an eye on you” as opposed to apologizing for mistakenly accusing them of a crime.
Joseph believes that schools need to make a change so that children don’t have to worry about facing felonies for minor crimes or in this case a simple misunderstanding.
It was very outrageous for them to do it,” she said. “There was no need for police involvement. They’re charging kids like they’re adults now.
Fort Bend ISD Chief David Rider told abc13, “For us at Fort Bend ISD Police, arrest is a last resort.”
However, that’s not entirely true for minority students.
This case was just one of eight counterfeit charges investigated by Fort Bend ISD police since the beginning of the 2013 school year.
Oberg looked at police reports dating back to the 2013 school year and found at least 40 cases that dealt with students suspected of trying to pass counterfeit currency in the lunch lines of the surrounding Houston, Fort Bend, and CY-Fair ISDs.
In the vast majority of those cases the students were black, in three the students were Hispanic, but none of the 40 cases ever involved white students being investigated.
Of the three school districts contacted, only one, Cy-Fair ISD, was willing to make a statement via email which read:
CFISD is aware of the disproportionate placement of minority students nationally.
Not every case resulted in an arrest, some did. Often the district attorney’s office refused to prosecute. However, in may of these cases, the students were sent to an alternative school, while their case was being investigated.
In Texas forgery is a third-degree felony which could result in a sentence of two to 10 years for any student convicted the crime. While the Harris County DA’s office explains that most students would be given probation, the felony arrest, and/or conviction stays on their record for the rest of their lives.
We see a disproportionate impact on minority youth when it comes to these charges,” attorney Mani Nezami said. “African-American and Hispanic boys in particular, but girls as well, tend to be overcriminalized for offenses that one might speculate if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be seeing a criminal charge.
Nezami is representing a 13-year-old CY-Fair ISD Cook Middle School minority student who could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for trying to use what turned out to be a fake $10 bill at school.
The student’s parents said the fake money felt real and looked real.
The friend pulls out a $10 bill and his friend thinks that it’s real,” Nezami said. “So they get to the lunch line… he buys his lunch with it, takes his lunch and goes and eats it.
Officials realized the $10 bill was fake when they conducted a forgery test after school.
He comes to school the next day and he gets arrested and charged with a third-degree felony.” Nezami said. “He’s in seventh grade. He doesn’t handle money that much.
They put him in handcuffs,” he said. “They put him in a police car, the whole bit.
Trying to appeal to the school’s sense of decency and common sense, the parents of the student tried to pay the $10 the school said their son owed. But it was too late.
Nezami’s client has never been in trouble at the school and is an excellent student, often earning A’s and B’s in class.
However, now the student’s future could be in jeopardy because they think he’s Al Capone.
He could face years in jail or prison,” Nezami said.
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