When I heard about the case of Tonya McDowell, the homeless mother sent to jail for sending her 5-year-old son to the "wrong" school district, I immediately thought back to the case of Kelley Williams-Bolar not long ago. I wondered how the world has gone mad enough to somehow think that it should be against the law for mothers to find ways to get their children access to a high quality education.
As a result of this homeless single mother having the audacity to get her child into a good school, she is being charged with first-degree theft and also being asked to repay the $15,686 it allegedly cost to educate her child in the Norwalk, Conn. school district. No one cares that this family has no home. No one seems to care about what will happen if this child grows up without the only woman on earth wired to love him unconditionally. No one seems to care about the massive costs to the state of prosecuting this mother and eventually the child, as we deliberately trap them in an intergenerational cycle of poverty and criminal justice. All that seems to matter is that they keep this little boy out of their school.
When we formed our coalition to support Tonya’s situation, we were initially confused about the school predicament in Connecticut. If the schools in Ms. McDowell’s own district had been adequate in the first place, there would be nothing to prosecute (even though she told me that she lived in a van in Norwalk, making it legal for her to educate her child in that area). So, perhaps local officials should also be prosecuted for unconstitutionally denying Ms. McDowell’s child his educational opportunities.