Mom Pleads Guilty To "Stealing School"

, Posted: Thu, February 23 2012 at 4:46 PM, Updated: Thu, February 23 2012 at 5:01 PM

A homeless Connecticut woman who received national attention when she was accused of enrolling her son in the wrong school district pleaded guilty in court on Wednesday.

Tonya McDowell entered her plea Wednesday in Norwalk Superior Court.

Her plea was made under the Alford Doctrine, meaning she does not admit guilt but concedes the state has enough evidence to convict her.

She faces about five years in prison at sentencing.

McDowell was homeless and unemployed last April when she was charged with felony first-degree larceny and accused of stealing more than $15,000 worth of services from Norwalk schools.

Police began investigating in January 2011, after the Norwalk Housing Authority filed a complaint that McDowell had registered her son at Brookside Elementary School in Norwalk, even though she had been living in an apartment in Bridgeport.

Authorities said she fraudulently enrolled her then-5-year-old son in a Norwalk school using her babysitter's address when her son should have attended school in Bridgeport, because that was her last permanent address.

At the time, McDowell said she was living in a van and was allowed to sleep in the apartment in Bridgeport by the tenant, but had to leave during the day.

She also told police she sometimes stayed at an emergency shelter in Norwalk.

In July 2011, McDowell was charged with drug violations.

Her attorney says the plea agreement guaranteed a shorter sentence on all charges.

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