This 13-year-old was threatened with a felony charge -- for using a $2 bill
Danesiah Neal, an 8th grader who lives just south of Houston, was only 13 when she found herself under investigation for third-degree felony counterfeiting.
Her alleged crime? Using fake cash to buy chicken nuggets in the school cafeteria.
What actually happened? She used a very real $2 bill her grandmother gave her for lunch.
"I went to the lunch line and they said my $2 bill was fake," Danesiah recalled. "They gave it to the police. Then they sent me to the police office. A police officer said I could be in big trouble."
After the school administration hauled her out of the cafeteria, they called her grandmother, Sharon Kay Joseph, who was shocked that Danesiah was in trouble. From there, the school police officer went to the convenience store where Sharon got the bill and then — still failing to detect a grand criminal scheme — to a bank, which determined that the bill was real and simply too old to be tested with a counterfeit pen.
Related: See counterfeit money:
The school cop "brought me my $2 bill back," said Sharon, but "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," she added. "There was no need for police involvement. They're charging kids like they're adults now."
She is absolutely right: Even leaving aside how ridiculous it is that people whose job is educating children don't know the $2 bill exists, there is no excuse for the way this girl was treated.
Unfortunately, there is also no surprise here, as this overkill response is typical of the way most public schools handle misbehavior today. Thanks to onerous zero-tolerance policies, our schools—like the rest of our society—are really, really over-policed.
Children have been arrested for burping and farting in class, suspended for twirling pencils and slicing apples (during a presentation on healthy eating, no less) and drawing a cartoon bomb from a video game, and led out of school in handcuffs for doodling a friendship note on a desk.
Police presence in public schools increased by a third from 1997 to 2007, even though there's little evidence to show that placing officers in schools reduces criminal activity. Some data suggests the opposite is true: When cops withdraw from the school environment, misbehavior has been found to decrease.
In fact, a constant police patrol in schools actually distracts attention from really serious infractions by bogging down the justice system with petty stuff a teacher or principal should be able to handle. So constantly policing schools has not only failed to make them safer but has actually increased the danger to American children, making them more likely to be unnecessarily thrown in jail or slapped with a criminal record.
Danesiah's absurd encounter with school police ended in nothing more serious than a missed meal. For too many other kids, schoolyard mischief has been blown out of proportion into a life-altering event.
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