Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lawmakers Start Asking Questions about the Tanya McDowell Case

HARTFORD -- State lawmakers are wondering why a homeless Bridgeport woman is being prosecuted on felony charges for enrolling her son in a Norwalk school.

Rep. Bruce V. Morris, D-Norwalk, said Wednesday that since Tanya McDowell's 5-year-old son A.J. was withdrawn from Brookside Elementary School in January she should be held accountable for no more than half the $15,000 she has been charged with stealing.

If it were $7,500, it would only reach the level of a misdemeanor, he said, stressing that the case underscores Connecticut's record of depriving inner-city residents the same level of education that is available in the suburbs.

"She wanted to see to it that her child was given a great education," Morris said. "Education is the equalizer. Equal access to education is the civil rights issue of today and it's something that needs to be addressed across all borders. Connecticut has the largest achievement gap in the country."

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, the city's longtime expulsion and residency hearing officer, said Wednesday that usually a parent is given a low-profile chance to withdraw.

"I think in 19 years of doing it I've done about 12 or 13 and they are actually called by statute `denial of school accommodations,' "Cafero said in an interview on the House floor. "It is certainly within the rights of any school, I think, to make sure the people getting the education are residents."

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