Conn. mom in court over residency, school

NORWALK, Conn. —A homeless single mother charged with intentionally enrolling her son in the wrong Connecticut school district asked prosecutors on Wednesday to drop the case so school officials can handle the matter administratively.

Tanya McDowell deserves to be treated the same as 26 other families who were caught this year for doing the same thing in Norwalk schools, said her lawyer, Darnell Crosland.

The other out-of-town children who were put into Norwalk schools were sent back to their hometown districts, but none of their parents were arrested.

Crosland is asking prosecutors to drop the charges and, in effect, turn back the clock by giving McDowell a chance to go through the administrative hearings that Norwalk schools and other districts conduct for such cases.

Although Crosland and prosecutors did not reach a resolution Wednesday, he believes they are "walking toward the right direction."

"I'm optimistic that once cooler heads prevail, equity will prevail," Crosland said.

McDowell attended Wednesday's court hearing, but did not comment.

McDowell did not go through Norwalk's administrative hearing process because housing authority officials, not the school district, brought the residency case to prosecutors after discovering she was using her baby sitter's address.

The housing authority also evicted McDowell's baby sitter and the sitter's two children.

Prosecutors say McDowell told housing authority investigators that she lived in Bridgeport and that she never claimed to be homeless. McDowell has said she splits her time between living in a van, staying some nights with a friend in Bridgeport and staying in a Norwalk shelter.

Her attorney said Wednesday that they think they can prove McDowell is homeless, and that they hope her son can re-enroll in Norwalk schools under federal laws governing how and where education is provided for homeless children.

He is finishing kindergarten in Bridgeport and living with relatives there, though Crosland said McDowell often is there, too, to spend as much time as possible with him.

The boy cannot understand the complexity of the charges and thinks his mother literally stole the entire school, building and all, Crosland said.

Also Wednesday, the Connecticut Parents Union education advocacy group submitted a petition to prosecutors of more than 15,700 signatures collected online from people asking authorities to drop the charges.