A homeless mother who pleaded guilty to fraudulently enrolling her six-year-old son in the wrong school district has been sentenced to five years in prison.
According to Graham Smith with Daily Mail, Tonya McDowell sent her son to an elementary school in Norwalk, Connecticut, instead of her home city of Bridgeport.
The 34-year-old, who was homeless when she was charged with felony larceny last year, said she wanted the best education possible for the boy.
McDowell entered her plea at Norwalk Superior Court under the Alford Doctrine, which means she does not admit guilt but concedes she does not believe she will win the case.
Even though she was homeless, authorities said that she used a babysitter’s address to enroll her son in kindergarten in Norwalk when he should have attended schools in Bridgeport, her last permanent address.
Her case drew national attention and support from civil rights leaders and other advocates who wanted the charge dismissed.
The 34-year-old, who was homeless when she was charged last year, said she wanted the best education possible for her son.
McDowell told police she was living in a van and occasionally slept at a Norwalk shelter or a friend’s Bridgeport apartment when she enrolled her son Norwalk’s Brookside Elementary School.
Police accused McDowell of stealing $15,686 worth of ‘free’ educational services from Norwalk.
Smith also reports, “McDowell’s lawyer, Darnell Crosland, said she agreed to accept a plea bargain rather than continue fighting the charges even though she insists she is not guilty.”
Mr Crosland said: ‘You shouldn’t be arrested for stealing a free education. It’s just wrong.’
Why is a homeless lady being treated this way? If she lives in a van and sometimes stays in Norwalk, then how can they accuse her of stealing a free education? This isn’t justice! This is taking away an opportunity for the son of a homeless woman and unjustly imprisoning someone who wants opportunities for her son.