Homeless Mom Faces 20 Years in Jail for Sending Kid to Wrong School

If you have no fixed address, and are unsure about where to send your kids to school, do not send them to Brookside Elementary in Norwalk, Conn., where a mother was just charged with larceny for illegally enrolling her son.

The "illegal" bit is that the mom, 33-year-old Tanya McDowell, allegedly lives in Bridgeport, and should be sending her son A.J. to school there and not in Norwalk, where she had enrolled him last year. Except that McDowell says she is homeless, and splits her time between a Norwalk shelter, her minivan, and an apartment in Bridgeport where she can stay only when the lease-holder is out of town. In fact, Norwalk authorities only believe that McDowell lives in Bridgeport because of testimony she gave at a friend's eviction hearing in January—when her friend, Ana Marques, was evicted because the judge believed McDowell was living at Marques's apartment in violation of the latter's lease. (McDowell had used Marques' address to enroll A.J. at Brookside.)

Of course, even if McDowell should, legally, be sending her son to school in Bridgeport, it's unclear why criminal charges are being brought against her: "McDowell's case is the first time anyone can remember a parent being criminally prosecuted for sending a child to a school out of district," the Stamford Advocate tells us. (The Advocate is speaking of Connecticut, we presume, as mother of two Kelley Williams-Bolar was convicted of a felony in a similar situation in Ohio earlier this year.)

But let's not let the alleged plight of an unemployed mother who wants to send her son to the best school possible prevent us from hearing about the real victim—the City of Norwalk:

Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia, meanwhile, defended the arrest, saying McDowell used a friend's public housing address to enroll her son at Brookside Elementary School. Moccia also noted McDowell's criminal history, including a November arrest for possession of marijuana and narcotics and an 18-month prison term in 2001 for robbery and weapons offenses.

"This is not a poor, picked-upon homeless person," Moccia said on Monday. "This is an ex con, and somehow the city of Norwalk is made into the ogre in this. She has a checkered past at best."...

"We're a very compassionate city," he said. "She knew how to post bond, she had a car — why didn't she send her kid to the Bridgeport school? This woman is not a victim and Norwalk is not an ogre. As far as I'm concerned, let them say what they want."

Indeed. Why should we have any sympathy for an ex-convict, living in a state with some of the highest achievement gaps in the country and trapped in a broken system that ties educational funding to property values, when it's Norwalk that has so clearly been wronged? Lock her up forever, we say, and ban A.J. from Brookside for life.

[Stamford Advocate, Fox News, images via CTNow.com]