Supporters Rally Behind Homeless Woman Arrested For Sending Son To Norwalk School

Tanya McDowell Left Shelter For Another City And Chaos Ensued

NORWALK, Conn. (CBSNewYork) — Imagine being arrested for sending your child to the school of your choice. That’s what happened to a homeless mother who faces felony charges and 20 years in prison if convicted.

CBS 2’s Lou Young has the story of a mother’s battle to give her son a good education.

“I didn’t do anything wrong. All I want is the best for my son,” Tanya McDowell said.

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After living in a Norwalk homeless shelter, McDowell thought she’d earned her son a sliver of stability in a good elementary school. The City of Norwalk, however, disagrees.

“Everything came as a complete shock, total shock. Unbelievable,” McDowell said.

McDowell was arrested and charged with theft of services after she moved out of the shelter to stay with a friend temporarily in Bridgeport. Her son was kicked out of the Norwalk school and she is now criminal defendant.

“It makes me feel like I let him down, the system failed him. Who could tell a 5-year-old little boy like they don’t want you over there? They kick you out due to certain circumstances of not having a fixed address,” McDowell said.

“We know it’s no dispute that she lived in a homeless shelter here in Norwalk for nine months, and I don’t think anybody goes to a homeless shelter and lives knowing what goes on in a homeless shelter to make a case for a kid to go to school,” defense attorney Darnell Crosland said.

McDowell had her second appearance at the Norwalk Courthouse on Wednesday. Supporters presented the judge with a petition asking all charges be dismissed. There were 16,000 signatures.

“No matter what condition any person is in we want to make sure the parent has an opportunity for that child to get a good education,” said Scott Esdaile of the Connecticut NAACP.

“This woman clearly doesn’t have a stable address. They pulled the child out in mid-year. There is a federal law that should’ve protected her,” supporter Gwen Samuels added.

If it’s tough for adults to understand it’s impossible for the mind of a child. The boy, A.J., recently asked his mom if she was accused of stealing his entire old school. She told him, no, it’s not that at all. She hopes it’ll be resolved when she goes to court again in June.

Prosecutors said the cost of an education for a student from out of the Norwalk district is $15,686 a year.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

More from Lou Young
  • A Sound Mind

    Jabster to call u simple minded and ignorant would be undercutting it. One of the biggest pictures here is that if education was equal ALL AROUND families/people would not have to “lie” to get their children into better schools, therefore leading to a better education. And you continuously bring up her criminal background. You don’t know this woman, you don’t know how she got to where she is today, unless you are trying to suggest that she was born a depraved soul. Her criminal record has NOTHING to do with her son and it has NOTHING to do with the fact that she is possibly trying to get a better education for her son so that he does not end up choosing the same path she chose in life. How sick is it to be charged for “stealing educational services” why isn’t it equal all around, and why are schools that are placed in predominantly black areas poorer, less resourced and less funded than schools in predominantly white areas. The truth of the matter is NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED SINCE THE END OF SLAVERY. Point blank her criminal background has nothing to do with her desire to want to get her son a better education, it is abominable that in “today’s America” you can be charged FOR STEALING “FREE” public education, and if the level of educational resources [services] were the same all around people would not have to fight, lie or steal to give their children a fighting chance.

    • jabster


  • rydrchic

    If she had been honest and not lied and committed perjury , this would be a nonissue. However, I do think this will be resolved. Also, I think the possible sentence seems a bit much for this. But when one commits a crime often their criminal background is taken into consideration, right or wrong. More importantly, she has several FELONY drug charges pending from NOV of 2010. This includes DEALING near a SCHOOL. That has nothing to do with race or being homeless. How would you feel if that was your childs school???????

    • Lilah

      First of all she was living in the school district, then she moved. Second, there are students who are dealing drugs in school. You have to teach your child right from wrong.. Again WTH does her background have to do with her wanting a better education for her child.. Not a person can answer that question yet. All I keep reading is how she had a criminal background and yada yada yah… What does that have to do with them kicking her son out of the school mid year because she found somewhere to stay after living in the damn shelter for 9 months… This is ridiculous. Point blank. Then to say she is looking to face 20 years. When I stop seeing it happening to black mothers than I will declare it is not a race thing. Two different stories and both of the mothers are black. Bring me some white people who are arrested than we can leave the race card a lone. And I refuse to believe white people don’t do the same damn thing..

      • jabster

        Her criminal history shows the kind of dishonest person that she is, and what a LIAR she is. She even lied to her own attorney about being strip searched and was proven wrong when her attorney viewed the police video. LIAR LIAR LIAR. This is a dangerous criminal who has cheated and lied her way through life. It is time for it to stop NOW.

      • jabster

        Since when is it OK to submit a petition to drop charges against a criminal? McDowell knowingly broke the law – she lived in Bridgeport with her son at her mother’s house and used phony addresses to gain access to Norwalk schools. Her crime spree needs to end NOW. She is a convicted bank robber who robbed a bank in Trumbull, and is currently facing charges for selling drugs near a school. She also assaulted her son’s babysitter. She lied about being stripped search by the police and embarassed her own attorney. Reminds me of the Tawana Brawley scam that was pulled several years ago. “A Pack of Lies”

      • Lilah

        LOL!!! RIIIIIIIGGGGGGHT!!! You want to sit here and say it is not a race thing, but you use Tawana Brawley of lying (another black person). Lets talk about Susan Smith who drowned her babies and said a black person carjack her and it was a lie. Lets talk about the run away bride who of course was white and lied and said it was men of color who kidnapped her, oh and what about the reported for channel 7 who said a Hispanic man was stalker her and it was all a lie.. Don’t give me the it ain’t a race thing.. They saw this black kid probably in a predominately white school and wanted to know if he belong there or not. If she was white, this wouldn’t even be an issue.. Come with something else. Because of her criminal history, people like you are trying to justify the bs. whatever!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Welfare Recipient

    Where is the baby’s daddy? I bet he is in jail.

    • jabster

      You are correct – father of son is in prison. These people are career criminals and it must end here. Tanya McDowell is a convicted bank robber – she robbed a bank in Trumbull, CT. She also has a record for selling drugs near a school and she also assaulted her son’s babysitter. She and her son lived in Bridgeport and used phony addresses to get into the Norwalk schools. She is dishonest. This is an evil person here. Reminds me of the Tawana Brawley scam that occurred several years ago.

  • David Goldstein

    She’s homeless and keeps breeding. Why don’t she keep her legs closed?

  • cecelia

    Put the race card away. Old song. I am white and I had to proof where I lived 2x to get my kid in school.

    • Lilah

      Until you leave the life of a black person, I will not put the race card away. Yea it is an old song that is still playing among people in this country. Yea you had to show your proof twice and your point is what… She is not the first one that the public school have gone after. Another single mother who had her two kids register at a school in her father district was arrested also. Her father paid taxes just the same and it was more convenient for her father to pick her kids up. And oh yea she was black too. You can not tell me that white people are not doing the same thing. Whatever!!!!

      • jabster

        You are making excuses for her breaking the law. No one is above the law, especially this dangerous criminal McDowell. She is not entitled to steal services from the honest taxpayers who work hard to support their families — instead of living off of the system like McDowell. Tell her to get a job and work like the rest of us and maybe she will stay out of trouble.

  • cecelia

    Perhaps if she did the right thing to start with this would not be going on. She is a liar and I am sure she will be back in the news in the future.

  • Stephanie Mauser

    i see comments about how she lied and wasn’t really homeless and how she’s a criminal who was convicted of robbing a bank and such. if this is true, then it will come out in court. if it’s not true, and as the article says, she was actually homeless and enrolled the kid in the school in the district where the shelter was, then i don’t see why he should not at the least be allowed to finish out the year there. idk how it works in other places, but here, if a family moves before the school year is up, they have the option to allow the child(ren) to finish out the year in the old district and then need to re-enroll in the new one, in most cases. idc if his mother was or is a criminal, if he was residing in the school district when he was enrolled in that particular school, he had a right to be there. does CT not allow for him to stay there if he moved after he was enrolled? if not, then i suppose THAT is a crime, but it is hardly the child’s fault. this article does not give enough information for me to believe one way or the other whether there has been a crime here. they are saying she was in the shelter for 9 months, i would think that if there was a way to disprove that, the city would be blaring all over about it. idk, there’s too much missing from this story.

    • jabster

      She has a criminal record and has lied and cheated to gain access to the schools in Norwalk. She has broken the law. The real victims here are the honest hard-working taxpayers who are struggling to raise their families and make ends meet – only to have a criminal like McDowell steal their tax dollars and divert them away from programs intended to benefit all of the students who are legally there.

      • Lilah

        What the hell her criminal record have to do with her wanting a better education for her son? You racist people are ridiculous… First of all if this racist system was not set up to fail African American children in the first place, she wouldn’t have “lie” to get her son a good education. If the educational system was fair and the same across the board, people wouldn’t have to go through such great lengths to get a good education for their children.. Give me a break and look at the bigger picture.

        “Let he who is without sin cast the 1st stone”

  • JMK

    well well well…….if this person were white nobody would be supporting her mission…ah, but black you gotta know the white liberals will be all over this all that aside the kid should not have to suffer cause his stupid mother is homeless……..she needs to get a JOB…..det she dosen’t know that word

    • Lilah

      First of all it wouldn’t happen to a white woman. They are probably not even checking white children address because like you, because you are white you got to be right!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • New Lamby


      the unemployment rate is 9%. The real rate is probably 16% according to red necks like you,, Who’s is going to hire her?Obviously not somebody like you.

      Why doesn’t the city spend its time on more productive issues>

      • Lilah

        Totally agree with you New Lamby. Obvious, they have nothing else to do. SMDH*

  • mary

    Homeless children have educational rights. The child’s school should look up the federal law “McKinney-Vento” to learn about the rights of all temporarily housed students. This child has a right to go to school in the neighborhood where he is being housed or has a right to go back to the school he attended where he had permanent housing.

  • gary

    gawd, you people are disgusting
    she’s homeless for crying out loud ! she has a vision of a better life for her son, she wants to send him to a free, good,public school. she as an american citizen should legally have the right to send her child to any school of her choosing, that she can afford, in this case a free public school. The bureaucrat that made this call, should be taken to the town square and hanged until dead, for crimes against a CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
    For you pigeon holers, I am white ,57 and libertarian, for you uneducated democrats, that’s as far as you can get from the democrat party

  • MIKE


    • MIKE


  • None Of Your Business

    Those zillions of illgal Mexicans — who should be immediately sent back to where they came from and let’s forget this ‘path to citizenship’ nonsense — are allowed to send their children to whatever U.S. schools they want to but this woman –who I assume is an American citizen — cannot send her child to a public school . Why? Because he’s not an illegal Mexican. If he were an illegal Mexican, every school in the country would welcome him with open arms. I applaud Arizona for its sensible actions against these illegal vermin who are overrunning the country. American citizens have no rights whatsoever. Only illegal Mexicans have rights in the United States of Mexico (formerly United States of America).

  • Joel

    So this woman, a U.S. citizen, who had fallen on hard times faces felony charges and 20 years in prison for trying to give her son a better education, yet it’s considered discriminatory or even racist if you refuse an education to someone who is here illegally because their parents brought them here without being citizens.

    This country is seriously deteriorating.

    • jabster

      This woman created her own problems. She lied about being homeless, she used phony addresses, including her babysitter’s address – causing her babysitter to get evicted – then assaults her babysitter and causes a public disturbance. She has been convicted of robbing a bank and dealing drugs in the vicinity of a school. Now she wants to illegally enroll her kid in a school where where she is not entitled to. Tanya McDowell’s crime spree needs to stop and it should end here! The taxpayers and citizens of Norwalk support our mayor for bringing this criminal to justice.

  • john

    take your faces out of your a-s-s-e-s, the American government is discriminatory, often framing and convicting innocent people.

  • Bell Toller

    If this was a white kid the school would have let him stay.

    • jabster

      What a poor example the mother is setting for her son. The lesson here is that crime doesn’t pay. You simply cannot send a kid to whatever school you want. McDowell is a resident of Bridgeport so that is where her kid has to go. Too bad her lies and dishonesty put her in this position. She should have learned from her prior bank robbery conviction and drug dealing that it is wrong to steal. Now she has to face all of the taxpayers and citizens that she stole from.

  • jabster

    Tanya McDowell is a dangerous criminal – she is a convicted bank robber (robbed a bank in Trumbull, CT) and is facing charges for selling drugs near a public school. She used phony addresses to make her appear homeless when she lived in Bridgeport with her son at her mother’s house. She also assaulted her son’s babysitter. Unfortunately, all of these facts were left out of this story.

    She should pay for her crime – she is guilty and knew exactly what she was doing. Lying, cheating and stealing is no way to get through life.

    • chavisbro7

      you are an idiot. jabster u work for the FBI plain and simple 26 more poeple sort to say got caught…….how many is white or any other nationality ….20 yrs unbelievable

      • jabster

        Don’t fall for this scam that McDowell is trying to pull. She is dishonest and a fraud. The honest, hard-working taxpayers will not tolerate being cheated out of their tax dollars by this criminal.

      • Lilah

        Thank you Chacisbro7. It is a race thing. I don’t care what she did or didn’t do. They have not gone after one white person yet. Two different mothers this have happened to and both of them were black.. I love when people say it is not a race thing, especially when they are white and never had to deal with racism or the obstacles that black people faces.

      • jabster

        Thanks for the name calling chavisbro7. Someday you may realize that this criminal McDowell is a danger to even her own son. Selling drugs near schools? Robbing banks? Assaulting her son’s babysitter? Stealing public services that she’s not entitled to? Phony addresses? C’mon, wake up.

  • lck

    she lied and broke the law so someone tell me why the charges should be dropped. the article states that 26 other families have been caught doing the same thing, stealing town educational services. if more people were prosecuted there would be fewer instances of this kind. she also lied about having a cavity search so she is a liar, plain and simple, a liar.

    • Mezo

      d Ick, the library is closing soon…please step away from the keyboard.

  • Jess

    This is a great story, but there’s a small error. The petition had more than 16,000 signatures at the time of the petition delivery on Wednesday.

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