Tanya McDowell says she enrolled her son at Brookside because she wants the best for him.
Photo credit: Moina Noor
Tonya McDowell thought by enrolling her son at a Norwalk elementary school, he would have a better life than she did. "The school was better than the one in Bridgeport," says McDowell. "I want the best for my child. There's nothing I wouldn't do for him. I think a lot of parents in my situation would have done the same."
McDowell, 33, is charged with first-degree larceny for allegedly stealing more than $15,000 — the average amount it takes to educate a child per year in Norwalk. McDowell allegedly used her babysitter's address at Roodner Court, a Norwalk Housing Authority complex, to enroll her son at Brookside Elementary School. McDowell, who is originally from Bridgeport but has no fixed residence, is an unemployed single mother. She currently stays with a friend in Bridgeport but has also stayed at the Open Door Shelter in South Norwalk.
When the Norwalk police arrested Tanya McDowell last Thursday, she had no idea why. "I kept asking, 'What did I do?' " she says in an interview outside the offices of Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now, or NEON, overlooking the big chessboard in Ryan Park. It wasn't until she arrived at the police station that she learned of the charges. McDowell posted $25,000 bond with the help of her godfather and has her next court date April 27.
McDowell's 5-year-old son, Andrew Justin, or A.J., started kindergarten at Brookside in September and left in mid-January. "I received a call on my voicemail telling me that I had to remove A.J. from the school. No paperwork or anything, just a voicemail." McDowell says that she didn't contest the message and withdrew A.J. from Brookside. "He loved that school, his teacher and his friends," she says of A.J.'s four months at Brookside. "He never got into any trouble."