UPDATE: 5:15 p.m. – In a statement obtained by HuffPost, the Henry County School District in Georgia said superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis reviewed the facts in the case and conferred with local authorities – who do not believe the student was aware the bill was counterfeit – and has decided to reverse the disciplinary board’s decision to suspend the student. Davis also will review “the entire Code of Conduct and the process for assigning consequences for student infractions.”
“We are in the business of educating students,” the superintendent said in a statement. “And while it is our responsibility to ensure our expectations uphold a safe learning environment, we must never omit sound judgement in matters so closely impacting our students’ lives and their education. The student has returned to class.”
A Georgia school district is punishing a 12-year-old honor student after he used counterfeit money to pay for his lunch. The boy and his parents claim they had no idea the bill was fake and even filed a police report. Still, school administrators say they won’t lift the 10 days of in-school suspension the boy received.
“The whole process has been unfair,” Christian Philon told Atlanta’s WSB-TV.
A straight-A student and athlete at Austin Road Middle School in Stockbridge, Christian said he was sent to the assistant principal’s office on Jan. 10, after using a $20 bill his father gave him to pay for lunch. Christian said the school told him the bill was counterfeit and gave him an in-school suspension.
“They said, ‘You possessed it, so you’re going to have to pay for it,’” he told WSB-TV.
Christian’s father, Earvin Philon, told the news station he’d handed his son the money when he received it back as change after a purchase at a fast-food restaurant.
“I’ve never handled counterfeit money,” Philon said. “I don’t know what it looks like. ... There was no way when I gave it to my son that he knew it was counterfeit.”
When the boy’s parents discovered what happened they filed a police report about the counterfeit bill. They took a copy of that report to a Wednesday disciplinary hearing at the school, but school administrators refused to budge on the boy’s punishment.
The panel, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, maintained that regardless of the circumstance, Christian violated the school’s code of conduct, which prohibits the possession of counterfeit currency.
Christian’s parents said they plan to appeal. But as The Root reported, if the school upholds its punishment of the honor roll student, “Christian will be part of a disturbing and longstanding trend of American schools handing down suspensions at disproportionate rates to black students—in particular, black boys.”
Across Georgia last year, authorities reported that thousands of dollars in counterfeit money were being spent in the state, ending up in the hands of consumers who are unwittingly recirculating the bogus cash.