A Maryland mother is calling for action after school officials asked police to question her son with disabilities after he was found playing with toy money.
On the morning of May 14, Tiffany Kelly’s son took play money purchased from Amazon to school with him. He then began passing around the fake bills to other students on his school bus, “in an attempt for socialization, something he struggles with,” Kelly said in her Change.org petition.
A bill was left behind on the bus and through security footage, officials were able to link the money to Kelly’s son, That’s when the decision to call the police was made. Kelly also said Secret Service was contacted but did not mention if they also questioned her son.
“Who at Montgomery County Public Schools decided this was an offense that was of such a possible imminent danger to others that a call to law enforcement had to be made, instead of a call to mom?” Kelly said.
Kelly mentioned how disregarded as a parent she felt and could not understand why her elementary-aged disabled son was questioned by police without her knowledge or presence.
A similar incident occurred earlier this month in San Diego. Two boys, ages 7 and 8, were questioned by police for playing with fake, yet realistic-looking bills in class without their families being notified first.
“You could tell it was fake when you looked at it closely, but it was well done,” said Valencia Park Elementary School Principal Lori Moore.
Moore called San Diego police because “that is what they’re supposed to do with counterfeit money,” a school district spokeswoman told local media.
The police showed up to take the money, treating it as if it were real counterfeit money rather than just play money.
“Our children who are exhibiting age-appropriate behaviors of children are being responded to as if there was criminal behavior,” said Jamie Wilson, mother of the two boys.
Wilson tried to laugh the incident off but was upset to learn that police questioned her children without her consent.
“My son will have enough encounters with the police being a young black man,” she said. “He doesn’t need to have it starting here in elementary school.”
In the Maryland incident, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Public Schools confirmed it is practice to contact authorities if someone is suspected of trying to make a purchase with counterfeit money.
However, Kelly said her son did not try to purchase anything. The spokesman admitted in this case, “the police should not have been called,” according to NBC News.
“There were some clear missteps on our part and we are working to ensure the process is clear moving forward for staff and that incidents like this do not happen again,” the spokesman continued.
For Kelly, these “clear missteps” were the confirmation of every fear she had moving to Chevy Chase, an affluent and mostly white city in Montgomery County. According to the United States census, Chevy Chase’s population is comprised of 85 percent white, 8 percent Latino and 5 percent black people.
“It is an area that is not very diverse, and my greatest fear was policing of my son,” Kelly said. “We know policing in this country looks different for those that are suffering with mental illness, a disability, or is a person of color. Which target was it here?”
Montgomery Police responded to the incident, telling NBC Washington that racial profiling did not occur in their investigation.