A homeless woman from Bridgeport, Connecticut, was sentenced to five years in prison for enrolling her son in a school district where he did not reside, The Connecticut Post reports.
Tanya McDowell wanted a better education for her then 5-year-old son Andrew, and enrolled him in an elementary school in the neighboring town of Norwalk — using her son’s babysitter’s address for registration papers. At the time, she and her son were living out of her van and homeless shelters, and spending nights at an apartment in Bridgeport, the report says.
The mother was arrested and charged with first-degree larceny and sentenced to five years behind bars for the “stolen” education, according to People Magazine.
“Who would have thought that wanting a good education for my son would put me in this predicament?” McDowell, who was also facing drug charges that she later served time for, said in court at the time of her sentencing. “I have no regrets seeking a better education for him, I do regret my participation in this drug case.”
Meanwhile, actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days behind bars for her role in the college admissions scandal, which included paying $15,000 to admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer and his nonprofit organization, Key Worldwide Foundation (“KWF”), who then facilitated cheating on Huffman’s daughter’s SAT test by having a proctor correct the teen’s answers after the fact.
Critics pointed out the stark contrast in the consequences between these two cases, arguing that it exemplified a disparity that continues to put underprivileged communities at a disadvantage.
“While there is a part of us that may feel some sense of vindication at the idea of these parents serving five years in prison because Tanya McDowell served five years in prison when she was so much more deserving, that’s not justice,” Rebecca J. Kavanagh, a New York City public defender, told reporters of the college admissions scandal verdicts. “Justice is for Tanya McDowell to have never been charged, convicted or sentenced to prison and to have the same educational opportunity for her son as these parents have for their children.”
Singer John Legend shed light on McDowell’s case in his reaction to Huffman’s sentencing.
“I get why everyone gets mad when rich person X gets a short sentence and poor person of color Y gets a long one,” the singer wrote on Twitter. “The answer isn’t for X to get more; it’s for both of them to get less (or even none!!!) We should level down not up.”
“It’s insane we locked a woman up for 5 years for sending her kid to the wrong school district,” the father of two wrote, referencing McDowell. “Literally everyone involved in that decision should be ashamed of themselves.”