Yahoo News Writes about The Tonya McDowell and Kelley Williams-Bolar Cases

26 Apr

From Yahoo News

Education activists are rallying around a homeless woman who may face jail time for enrolling her son in kindergarten under a friend’s address. Supporters say the woman’s story is yet another dismaying example of inequality in the U.S. education system.

Tanya McDowell, a homeless single mother from Bridgeport, is charged with first-degree larceny and conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny for signing up her 5-year-old son to attend nearby Norwalk schools under the address of a friend. (Her son went to the school for four months. Her friend has been evicted from public housing for letting McDowell use her address.) McDowell may face up to 20 years in prison and a $15,000 fine if convicted.

Gwen Samuel, a Connecticut education activist, is organizing a press conference to try to get the charges dropped and raise awareness about parents who are criminally prosecuted, rather than dealt with individually by the school district, for using false addresses.

She says she expects a few hundred people to show up at Norwalk superior court at 9 a.m. Wednesday, including Kelley Williams-Bolar (pictured), the Akron, Ohio-based mom who made national news in January, when she was jailed for using her father’s address to send her kids to a better-performing school. Bolar’s story ignited a debate about inequalities in the public education system, where poorer parents must send their kids to poorer schools because much of the funding is on the local level.

"This will continue to happen–this will set a precedent and districts will be like, ‘OK I found a new way to get my money back, let’s go after them,’" Samuel tells The Lookout.

Boyce Watkins, a Syracuse university professor and activist, tells The Lookout that Williams-Bolar heard about McDowell’s case and wanted to support her. "Kelley called me and said, ‘I can’t believe they’re doing this to her, how can I help?’" She’s now on her way to Connecticut, and her trip is paid for by Samuel’s newly founded non-profit Connecticut Parents Union.

"First it happens to Kelley, then it happens to Tanya–they both happen to be poor black mothers trying to find a way to provide a better life for their children," Watkins said.

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