There are stupid school discipline stories, and then there's this: a Houston, Texas, public school called the police after a 13-year-old girl attempted to purchase chicken nuggets from the cafeteria using a $2 bill.
The police took the little girl, Danesiah Neal, to the office and told her she could be in "big trouble" for using counterfeit money.
But the $2 bill was real, of course. There aren't very many of them but $2s are out there. They constitute perfectly legal tender.
The police didn't believe it. They called Danesiah's grandmother and insisted the bill was fake, according to ABC 13:
'Did you give Danesiah a $2 bill for lunch?' " the grandmother, Sharon Kay Joseph, recalled being asked. "He told me it was fake."
Finally, the mystery was solved: The $2 bill wasn't a fake at all. It was real.
The bill so old, dating back to 1953, the school's counterfeit pen didn't work on it.
"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."
That's right: the 13-year-old didn't even receive an apology from the authority figures, even though she was ultimately denied lunch that day, according to her grandmother. Grandma also had this to say: "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 may seem like a small, silly story, but the grandmother has it exactly right: public schools overwhelmingly assume that children's misdeeds represent criminal wrongdoing and should be referred to the police. If little Danesiah had actually been attempting to pass off a fake $2 bill as legal tender, it was the school's job to discipline her, not a matter for the police. And yet law enforcement is routinely brought in to handle the most trivial behavioral disputes in public schools.
Ironically, while K-12 institutions increasingly refer all disciplinary matters to the police, the trend for colleges is the reverse: universities are now encouraged to handle violent sexual crimes themselves, rather than automatically involve the police. These developments could not possibly be any more backward. When there is serious violence in schools, the police should always be called. When kids are just goofing around, let the school—or the parents—take care of it.
Updated at 4:30 p.m. on May 5: I initially claimed that the government doesn't print $2 bills anymore. This isn't true: it still issues them.