NORWALK - The mother at the center of a school dispute appeared in court today, asking for the charges against her to be dropped.

Tanya McDowell was arrested and charged with larceny for allegedly stealing $15,000 in educational services by illegally enrolling her 5-year-old in kindergarten at Brookside Elementary.

Authorities say because she's homeless, McDowell used a friend's Norwalk address to enroll her son in the school, and prosecutors contend McDowell never told the district she was homeless.

McDowell has received support from the Connecticut Parents Union and an online petition started by a Norwalk resident. More than 16,000 people from around the country signed the petition, saying McDowell is being unfairly singled out and calling for the charges to be dropped. According to McDowell's attorney Darnell Crosland, 26 other students have been removed from Norwalk schools this year for not living in the district, but McDowell is the only person to have been arrested.

"We just want them to do right by Tanya and, most and foremost, her son," said Gwen Samuel, of the Connecticut Parents Union.

Crosland met with the prosecution today, and said both sides are moving in the right direction, adding that he is optimistic that "equity will prevail."

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