A Georgia middle school honor student was suspended when he unintentionally used counterfeit money to pay for lunch. His parents were forced to take their fight public to get the suspension removed.
Christian Philon, 12, used a $20 bill his father gave him to pay for lunch at Austin Road Middle School in the Atlanta suburb of Stockbridge on Thursday, Jan. 10. He didn’t know it was fake, but he still got in trouble.
“I’ve never handled counterfeit money. I don’t know what it looks like,” his father, Earvin Philon, said to WSB-TV Jan. 17. The veteran said that’s why he assumed the money, which he got in change from a fast-food restaurant, was real.
But once Christian handed the bill to a school cafeteria worker, she marked it with a counterfeit detection pen and discovered it was fake.
“I was confused on how the money was counterfeit. And how my parents received it,” Christian said.
“Me not knowing when I counted my money that it was counterfeit, and there was no way when I gave it to my son that he knew it was counterfeit,” his father said.
The straight-A honor student and athlete was sent to the principal’s office and punished with 10 days to serve in-school suspension.
“They pretty much said, ‘You possessed it, so you’re going to have to pay for it,’” Christian said when asked what the response was when he explained that he was unaware that the money was fraudulent.
“If we knew it, he wouldn’t have had it. But we didn’t know it,” his mother, Gwen Philon, said.
The student’s parents filed a police report saying they unknowingly got the counterfeit bill and assumed that action would clear their son’s name. However, at a Jan. 16 disciplinary hearing, a panel decided Christian violated the code of conduct that prohibited the possession of counterfeit currency, regardless of what the circumstance was.
“The final remark was, ‘He possessed it,’” Gwen Philon said.
School officials told the news station they are unable to comment on a disciplinary matter involving a student, but now a school superintendent says Christian shouldn’t have been punished, according to The Associated Press.
A statement issued Jan. 18 by Henry County Schools said a sheriff’s deputy reviewed the incident and concluded “there was no intent on the student’s actions nor did the student have knowledge that he was in possession of a counterfeit bill.”
Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis evaluated the results and determined Christian didn’t need to be punished.
“The student has returned to class,” Davis confirmed in the statement without mentioning the 12-year-old’s name.