National and Atlanta-area media outlets published Jan. 30 articles about the Henry County Board of Education’s decision to overturn the suspension of a sixth-grade honor student after he unknowingly paid for his school lunch with a counterfeit $20 bill. McGuireWoods commercial litigator Keisha Coleman, who represents the student and his family pro bono, filed a brief seeking to remove the incident from the student’s record and urging the board to revise its zero-tolerance policy for mere possession of counterfeit money.
In the brief, Coleman asserted that the policy enacted by the board violates Georgia law requiring that schools use discretion in considering a student’s disciplinary record and other factors when determining disciplinary actions. The student, who had no prior disciplinary incidents, received a five-day suspension, which a hearing officer extended by two more days despite school workers’ testimony that they also would not have recognized the bill was fake without the aid of a counterfeit-detection pen. The board reversed the punishment and cleared the student’s record at a Jan. 30 hearing.
In an Associated Press article titled “School Board clears student who unwittingly had fake money,” Coleman said the student’s family is pleased the incident has been removed from his record, but that she is “disappointed” the board did not address its “zero-tolerance policy for possession of counterfeit money.”
“We’re hopeful that they will consider rewriting that policy,” she added.
The AP article was picked up by The Washington Post and more than a dozen other publications, with additional coverage by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Grio.