Maryland mom seeking answers after cops called on 10-year-old son over play money

CHEVY CHASE, Md. (FOX 5 DC) -- A Maryland mother wants to know why police were called on her 10-year-old son after he brought play money on the school bus. It happened in Montgomery County and the school district is admitting mistakes were made. The story was first reported by Bethesda Magazine.

Tiffany Kelly says she bought fake money on Amazon to help her son, Sadiq, learn to count. The play money is marked with pink Chinese characters, and Sadiq brought it with him on the school bus and was handing it out to other students. Kelly describes Sadiq as bright and funny and says disabilities require him to have an Individualized Education Plan at school.

She says she's still struggling with what happened next.

Montgomery County Police say the bus driver saw what was happening and alerted a supervisor who called the police saying there was a student who may have counterfeit money.

Police notified the Secret Service, which they say is their policy for any potential counterfeiting cases.
A Montgomery County officer then went to Sadiq's school to talk to him in the principal's office.

"We need to stop calling police on children," Kelly said. "There was a time, if I had a fight, even if I went to a store and took something, my parents were called. We do not need to involve law enforcement on every level of a child's development and learning."

She also feels her African-American son's race was a factor in how the situation was handled.

"Children do the same things. But the interventions look different based on your class, ethnicity and economic status," she said. "And in this case, I feel there was a huge disparity."

Kelly said she wasn't told what was going until after a police officer interviewed her son and realized this was a misunderstanding.

Montgomery County Public School officials declined an interview, but released a statement reading:

"MCPS staff are actively are working with the parent to address her concerns. 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.

Our practice is to call the police if there is suspicion and/or evidence of a student trying to use counterfeit money to purchase something. But that wasn't the case in this situation and the police should not have been called."

Kelly didn't want to name her son's school because police were called by bus employees.

This happened in May. Kelly says it was unacceptable and unethical, but the school district has given the situation attention and said they want to make it right.