“Stealing” Free Education? Homeless Mother Gets Jail Time For Sending Her Son to a Better School District

Posted on February 29, 2012


“Stealing” Free Education? Homeless Mother Gets Jail Time For Sending Her Son to a Better School District

By Kristen Gwynne | Sourced from AlterNet

Posted at February 28, 2012, 2:20 pm

Thirty-three-year-old Tanya McDowell enrolled her son in a Connecticut school district better than the one in which she lived. McDowell, who was homeless when prosecutors charged her with felony larceny charges for “stealing” an education that is free for others, may only have been trying to help her son find a life better than her own. But those efforts ended disastrously.  Last week, she pleaded guilty to felony larceny. McDowell will likely spend five years in prison, and her son will be without his mother.

 Authorities allege that McDowell used a babysitter’s address to enroll her son in kindergarten in Norwalk, CT instead of Bridgeport, CT, the town of her last known permanent address. In addition to jail time, McDowell, who clearly does not have much, must spend $6,200 paying back the city of Norwalk for the public education she “stole.”

 “You shouldn’t be arrested for stealing a free education,” her lawyer Darnell Crosland said, “It’s just wrong.”

To make ends meet, McDowell may also have resorted to selling drugs, another crime to which McDowell pleaded guilty, and was considered in her sentencing. According to ABC, McDowell was arrested for the drug charges three days after participating in an education reform rally organized by the NAACP.

As Megan Cottrell wrote on Change.org,


Drug charges are the perfect excuse not to care about Tanya McDowell. After all, many people might think, obviously she deserved whatever trouble she meets – whether it’s a $200,000 bond for a drug arrest or a $15,000 fine for “stealing” her son’s education. If Tanya McDowell was a saint, then we might be able to excuse her enrolling her son in a nicer school district to get him a better education. But if she’s a sinner, she deserves what she gets.


Crosland said to measure McDowell “not by the fact that she was arrested for selling drugs, but what has she done for her child.”