HENRY COUNTY, Ga. — A middle school honor student was suspended for paying for his lunch with money that turned out to be counterfeit. He and his parents said they had no idea the $20 bill was fake.
The 12-year-old student, Christian Philon, goes to Austin Road Middle School, and his parents said they'll fight the suspension.
Last Thursday, he handed the lunch lady the bill and got into trouble.
“I’ve never handled counterfeit money. I don't know what it looks like," father Earvin Philon said.
Philon, a retired vet, assumed the $20 bill, which he got in change from a fast food restaurant, was real. He gave it to his son to pay for lunch.
But when the lunch lady marked it with a counterfeit pen, it turned out to be 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," Philon said.
Christian, a straight-A grade honor student and athlete, was sent to the assistant principal's office and put on in-school suspension.
"When you tried to explain to them that you didn't know it was counterfeit, what was their reaction?" Channel 2's Tom Regan asked the child.
“They said, 'You possessed it, so you're going to have to pay for it,'” Christian said.
“If we knew it, he wouldn't have had it. But we didn't know it,” mother Gwen Philon said.
The couple filed a police report about unknowingly receiving the counterfeit bill.
They assumed that would clear their son's name, but following a disciplinary hearing Wednesday, a panel decided regardless of circumstance, Christian violated the code of conduct prohibiting possession of counterfeit currency.
He received a total 10 days in school suspension.
“The final remark was, ‘He possessed it,’” Gwen Philon said.
"The whole process has been unfair," Christian said.
The couple said they will appeal their son's punishment and fight to clear his name.
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