HOUSTON (KTRK) --Alec Hunter, 15, was surrounded by his mother, father and brother as he appeared in court for the first time on forgery charges stemming from a trip through the Fort Bend ISD Elkins High School lunch line.
Hunter tells abc13 he found a $10 bill on the floor of the school commons area.
"I did what anyone would've done," he told abc13 outside the courtroom, "If you try to hold up a $10 bill in a high school and say 'Whose is it?,' I'm pretty sure everyone would say it's theirs. I didn't even try to do that."
He tried to use it to pay for a ham sandwich and chips at Elkins High School on November 4, 2015. The bill failed a test with a cafeteria staffer's counterfeit pen and was turned over to a campus police officer. Two months later, the boy's family found out he was being criminally charged.
The only contact the family says they had prior to that was from the school police officer asking for a statement from 15-year-old Hunter. Without a parent or lawyer present, his mother said no.
In his first comments about the case and the issue at large, Fort Bend ISD's Superintendent Dr. Charles Dupre told abc13 it is common practice for officers to ask students about possible counterfeit bills outside the presence of their parents and attorneys. Dupre suggested they want to quickly resolve the cases and described the police questioning as "informal interactions" with "friendly officers."
In an email to Hunter's father late last week Dupre wrote, "It is typical in these cases to drop any further activity quickly once we are able to visit with the student to gain a better understanding of how they obtained the bill and any intent for possessing or using it. ... I truly regret this situation and wish we could have resolved it sooner by visiting with Alec, as this would likely have prevented the need to refer the matter to the DA."
The case was in court today. Alec will be back in court later this month. His family hopes it will be dismissed quickly.
According to documents obtained by Ted Oberg Investigates, three area school districts have handled dozens of these cases in the past three years. Those documents show that in every case in which a suspect's race is listed, the suspect is a student of color.
Superintendent Dupre was not moved by the investigation telling abc13, "If you look at our district, where 75 percent of our students are students of color, that figure doesn't surprise me."
When we pointed out that all the listed suspects in all three districts were black or Hispanic, Dupre added, "That may be coincidental. I'm not sure why that would be the case."
State records show Fort Bend ISD is 29 percent black.
Dupre continued that he was not planning on making any changes to the way these cases are handled. He tells us district staffers have not discussed different ways to handle lunch line forgery and that they would continue to refer the cases straight to campus police officers.
You can read all the police reports we gathered below. (Please note some reports were redacted by districts to protect juvenile privacy.)
See the Cy-Fair ISD forgery police reports here
See the Fort Bend ISD forgery police reports here
See the Houston ISD forgery police reports here
Late Monday afternoon the district posted what it calls a fact sheet on its webpage. You can read it here.
Meanwhile, Hunter is due back in court May 23. Between now and then, the sophomore will sit for finals and he says hopefully bring his Chemistry grade to match his other A's & B's.
You can see Ted Oberg Investigates other coverage below:
Fort Bend ISD's ham-handed probe: Kid facing jail for buying ham sandwich Lunchroom lunacy: ISD cops investigate $2 bill spent on school lunch