NORWALK — When Tanya McDowell enrolled her son in kindergarten at Brookside Elementary School last year, she didn’t expect she’d be facing a possible 20-year jail sentence and having to repay more than $15,000 to the city.
"I had no idea whatsoever that if you enroll your child in another school district, it becomes a crime," said McDowell, 33, after she was arrested by Norwalk police last week on a first-degree larceny charge for allegedly stealing her son’s education.
McDowell’s case has prompted an educational advocacy group to lead a fundraiser on her behalf and sparked a debate among some current and former Norwalk officials over whether criminal prosecution is appropriate.
The homeless, single mother and unemployed former food services worker was arrested after police determined she was a Bridgeport resident. McDowell said she divides her time between an apartment on Priscilla Circle in Bridgeport, where she is not allowed to stay when the lease holder is away, the Norwalk Emergency Shelter and her minivan.