A homeless mother has been arrested for sending her child to a public school in an area where they didn't live.
Tanya McDowell is being charged with first-degree larceny for stealing $15,686 in education funds from the Norwalk, Conn. school district, the Stamford Advocate reports.
McDowell and her 6-year-old son don't have a permanent address, but split their time between a homeless shelter and a friend's apartment in Bridgeport. McDowell, however, used her son's babysitter's address to falsely register him for a Norwalk elementary school.
McDowell's arrest is a startlingly severe punishment for her crime. Most families caught sending children to schools in areas where they don't live are allowed to pull the students from the school without consequence.
The babysitter, Ana Rebecca Marques, is also being punished. She has been evicted from public housing for her role in helping McDowell get her son into the school.
The case is likely being used as an example to deter others from committing the same crime.
According to the Stamford Advocate, Mayor Richard Moccia said of the case,
"This now sends a message to other parents that may have been living in other towns and registering their kids with phony addresses."
Earlier this year, Ohio mother Kelley Williams-Bolar faced similar charges and was convicted of a felony for falsifying records to send her children to a better school.
The two cases highlight the rising trend of school officials trying to weed out students who don't live in their districts.
According to the Associated Press:
Education officials say cases tend to surface more when budgets are tight and in areas where there are significant disparities between districts such as in academic success or local income level -- particularly in wealthier districts near urban areas. That often means the districts in question also have racial disparities.
The discussion of Williams-Bolar's case has prompted a fierce debate over educational equity and school choice.