Today, I came across an article about a woman who’s homeless and had been arrested for using her son’s babysitter’s address to enroll him into school. She was arrested and she’s out on bond. She’s now awaiting trial (or whatever they are going to do next). For me, this is more than about a woman who is criminalized because she did the best that she could with what she had. Granted, I don’t know the details of the story but from what I can gather, it is a miscarriage of justice. Read the story for yourselves.
I’m upset because this story is about much more than education. For those of you that don’t know, I have a BS in Psychology and a MA in Urban Education Policy, which means when I see stories like this in the media, it never is just about the issue at hand. In this case, people are concerned because they feel a woman (she’s not even a Mother at this point) deserves to be made an example of because she stole education for a child.
Let’s break this down —
The biggest concern of the school (not even the district) is that a woman stole education. Education in this country is guaranteed, which means that in my mind, you technically can’t steal it. To go from this idea that everyone is “guaranteed an adequate education” to the idea that it’s okay to prosecute marginalized constituents because they sought an adequate education for their children is ludicrous. For me, this directly highlights the issue of the “Us” versus “Them” that we desperately struggle with in our country. In this case, the “Us” happens to be those who look like they can afford a $15,000 education, while those who are identified as “Them” happen to be any one person who could mess up that image. At this level, it’s really about stereotyping and presenting an image.
The second thing that truly bothered me was that no one is concerned with the identity and development of the young boy in question. We live in a country that tramples on the rights of the child daily. We read and hear about children who are arrested for simple infractions that become blown out of proportion because of Zero Tolerance Policies. We hear and read about children who are abused daily, yet their parents/caregivers remain free because people operate under the best interest of the adult while promulgating that they are concerned with the rights/best interest of the child. As someone who studied (somewhat seriously) development in youth, a child being suddenly stripped from an environment they may have thrived in, especially if it concerns education, is alarming. No one saw anything wrong with disrupting this young man’s emotional, physical, mental, and educational development? That’s an issue for me.
Finally, the question that no one is asking is what happens to the people who have now become criminalized? Will the Mother have the opportunity to get a job (I’m not sure if she had one in the first place but if she did, I hope she didn’t lose it)? What about the woman who was evicted from her public housing unit for allowing them to use her address? Where is she staying? Is she now a member of the homeless population? For those that don’t know, when you commit a crime or you happen to be an accessory to a crime and you live in public housing, should you become evicted from your space, you’re no longer eligible for said assistance. Then there’s always the question of cyclical poverty AND imprisonment. Let’s operate from the stance that the Mother didn’t have a record. Now she does. Statistics show time and again that children whose parents have been incarcerated are much more likely to become institutionalized/imprisoned than their peers who haven’t? So have we set this young man on a path of destruction now? What about his future? What are the implications there?