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A few months ago, we heard about the case of Kelley Williams-Bolar, the single mother who was arrested for sending her child to a better school outside her home district. Now, there’s an even more egregious case of a mother being prosecuted for loving her child too much. Tonya McDowell is a homeless single mom who was recently sent to jail for enrolling her first grader in a school outside what authorities defined to be her home district.

Ms. McDowell’s son used the address of a babysitter in Norwalk, CT to register for school, and his mother rotated between homeless shelters in Norwalk and nearby Bridgeport, CT. The babysitter, Ana Rebecca Marques, has been evicted from her home in a Norwalk Housing Project for her role in the process. Now, this six-year old child, who had so little to begin with, has seen the stability and freedom ripped away from the only two women who showed him love on a daily basis. In what world do we ever believe that this kind of barbaric public policy can ever be productive for our children?

Common sense would dictate that the resources that would have been spent for Ms. McDowell’s child in a neighboring county could simply be applied to the cost of attending schools in Norwalk. The problem, however, is that modern day educational apartheid implies that some children are given more support than others. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, Connecticut actually leads the nation in the size of the racial achievement gap. Therefore, black kids almost always end up at the bottom of the educational and economic piles.

The Tonya McDowell case is also scarily reminiscent of the conversation I had with NAACP President Ben Jealous just last week at the Measuring the Movement forum on black leadership. President Jealous and the NAACP have spoken clearly about how many states have formed an addiction to overspending on incarceration and underfunding education, leading to situations like this one. If the state of Connecticut were to simply reallocate the money they’re using to investigate, prosecute and incarcerate Ms. McDowell, they could help this loving mother find a home, a job and a way to educate her child.

State policy should not be built on the destruction of families. We want to help protect Ms. McDowell’s little boy, help this poor single mother and go toe-to-toe with a system that is seeking to destroy them both. To join our fight, please visit this link.


Kelly Williams Bolar speaks with Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton

Black mother jailed for sending kids to white school outside of district