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Dr. Boyce Watkins

Dr. Boyce Watkins

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Fighting the Arrest of Tanya McDowell: Educating Your Child Should Not Be a Crime

Posted: 04/24/11 10:28 PM ET

When I heard about the case of Tanya 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 Tanya'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.

If taking a seat in a public school is worth incarceration and living life as a convicted felon, then stealing a child's mother and his future should certainly call for an even harsher penalty. So, I'd be remiss not to find the Mayor of Norwalk, Richard Moccia, guilty of abducting the infinite value of this child's life by perpetuating academic apartheid in the state of Connecticut.

It's not as if the state of Connecticut can't afford the cost of helping Ms. McDowell find access to a home and an education. Connecticut is the third wealthiest state in the nation, and full of Wall Street billionaires who got rich by creating the greatest economic crisis in our nation's history. The least that the state can do is change the laws that keep loving mothers like Tanya McDowell from having the ability to educate their children. We must find ways to rise above the madness and see educational inequality for the civil rights issue that it is. Throwing away our children and their mothers is not good for America.

 

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