Daneisha Neal, an eighth grader at Christa McAuliffe Middle School in Houston, Texas, was very nearly arrested for trying to pay for her school lunch with counterfeit money.
Except the bill wasn’t counterfeit; it was a $2 bill that the police assumed was fake because … hell, I can’t even figure this one out.
At Daneisha’s school the vast majority of the students come from low-income homes so they qualify for reduced or free lunch, but one day her grandmother gave Daneisha the two-dollar bill and when she tried to pay for her chicken tenders, the lunch lady freaked out and called the campus police officer.
Daneisha, who had never been in any trouble in her life, says:
“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.”
The “big trouble”? A potential third-degree felony because neither the lunch lady nor the police knew that a two-dollar bill is legal tender.
The school even went as far as to call Daneisha’s grandmother, Sharon Kay Joseph:
“She’s never in trouble, so I was nervous going in there. The officials asked, “Did you give Daneisha a $2 bill for lunch?’ He told me it was fake.”
And even after Joseph told the school she’d given Daneisha the money, the Fort Bend Independent School District police started an investigation into the origins of the suspect cash.
Um, perhaps the origin was the Bureau of Engraving and Printing [BEP]?
But I guess that call to the BEP was never made; instead, a campus police officer went to the convenience store where Sharon Kay Joseph said she gotten the $2 bill as change. The store owners confirmed it was a real bill, but, still, the officer took the bill to store’s bank where they also confirmed that the “funny money” was real.
After the officer finished his investigation he returned to the school to apologize to both Daneisha and her grandmother and … oh wait, no he didn’t apologize; no one did.
“He brought me my two dollar bill back. He didn’t apologize. He should have and the school should have because they pulled Daneisha out of lunch and she didn’t eat lunch that day because they took her money.” — Sharon Kay Joseph
Is this a case of a lunch lady not knowing about a $2 bill? Maybe, but then no one at the school knew either, and no one at the campus police office knew; and then no one at the Fort Bend ISD seemed to know about a two-dollar bill.
Or, and this might seem more likely, was this entire mess created because Daneisha committed the crime of being poor and black?
This case was just one of eight counterfeit charges investigated by Fort Bend ISD police since the beginning of the 2013 school year. In fact, police reports dating back to 2013 show that at least 40 cases dealt with students suspected of trying to pass counterfeit currency at Houston area schools.
And, in the vast majority of those cases the students were black; in three cases the students were Hispanic. But in cases where a white student was suspected of passing a counterfeit bill there was not one single investigation.
Yeah, it’s buying a school lunch while black … or Hispanic … that might be considered criminal.