Tanya McDowell is a homeless Connecticut mother who was charged with felony larceny last year after she lied about her address to make her six-year-old son eligible to attend school in a better district. McDowell pled guilty to the accusation and was sentenced to twelve years in prison this week. While the sentence also takes four charges of drug possession and sale into account, the sentence also requires that McDowell pay a $6,200 fine for stealing what the state has calculated was $15,000 in educational services.
McDowell’s case attracted the support of education and civil rights advocates who argued that because she was living in a van and occasionally sleeping at a shelter in Norwalk, where she enrolled her child, she should not have been required to send him to school in the city of her last permanent address, which is located in Bridgeport. Instead of using that old Bridgeport address, McDowell used that of a babysitter who lived in Norwalk to send her son to kindergarten.
Does this twelve year sentence make any sense? It’s a shame that McDowell got caught up in drugs, whether she was selling them or using them, and it’s clear that she was doing everything she could to make a life for her child — she’s no Nino Brown. But that part of the sentence at least makes sense. What’s disgraceful is the idea that a parent who lacks a permanent address can be separated from her child for using the address of a friend to “steal” a free education for him.
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