Wednesday, June 08, 2011

State lawmakers debate decriminalizing out-of-district enrollments

It's good to see that some common sense may be coming to CT:

A decision to arrest a homeless Bridgeport woman for enrolling her son in a Norwalk elementary school has state lawmakers debating legislative solutions to what many consider prosecutorial overkill.

"I know people are talking about it," House Speaker Christopher Donovan, D-Meriden, said during Tuesday night's session at the Capitol. "I think it was too harsh ... Everybody believes it was too harsh."

But the parties involved in crafting legislation related to Tanya McDowell's arrest and ongoing prosecution still have some significant differences to overcome before the General Assembly adjourns June 8. Those include whether any fixes should retroactively impact McDowell, who faces a possible 20-year jail sentence and being forced to repay Norwalk about $15,600.

McDowell was arrested by Norwalk police April 14 following a 3-month investigation and charged with first-degree larceny for allegedly stealing her son's education.

She enrolled her son, Andrew Justin "A.J." Paches, 5, at Brookside Elementary School using the address of a friend who baby-sat for the boy at a Norwalk public housing complex.

The single mother is homeless, dividing her time between an apartment in Bridgeport where she is not allowed to stay when the leaseholder is away, the Norwalk Emergency Shelter and her minivan.

State Rep. Bruce Morris, D-Norwalk, argues state statutes need to be amended to prevent such cases from being prosecuted as felonies. They should instead be civil matters left in the hands of local school boards, Morris said, arguing it is also a wiser use of taxpayer money.


State lawmakers debate decriminalizing out-of-district enrollments

Brian Lockhart, Staff Writer
Updated 11:14 a.m., Wednesday, June 1, 2011

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