A grandmother accused of stealing the education for her grandchildren by sending them to school in her town instead of their mother's brought her case to federal court Wednesday.
Instead of facing jail time, Marie Menard paid nearly $20,000 in restitution to Stratford Public Schools and now, she wants that money back.
Menard said it was all about keeping her grandchildren in a stable environment with her in Stratford, while their mother, Ana Wade, moved around. That move got both women arrested and charged with larceny.
"This is for all the grandparents in the world," Marie Menard said. "A lot of us just want to help our children. It's just about the kids. It should always be about the kids."
The three-year-long fight for Menard and Wade has been tough because officials said they broke the law by sending her children to Stratford instead of Milford, where Wade had finally settled down.
"Of course I fought it to a point where I was afraid to get 20 years, so I paid," Menard said.
After paying the $20,000, Menard claimed Stratford school officials violated her civil rights by arresting her, and not other families doing the same thing.
"She was a homeowner in her town. Stratford arrested her. She owned her home over 30 years, she's been at her job over 25 years," said Gwen Samuel, who represents the CT Parents Union. "She paid into that school system and those were her grandchildren."
Menard was one of the last to face such criminal charges. In June, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a law that stops schools from arresting parents for so-called "stealing an education."
"What will happen for all Connecticut families going forward," said state Rep. Bruce Morris (D-140), "You'll be allowed an administrative hearing to present your defense as to why you are a resident and the child resides in that district."
Menard's supporters, along with some facing similar fights, want more laws like that and they want them on a national level.
"Education is a human right, so that's what I'm fighting for," said parent Hamlet Garcia of Pennsylvania.
The judge in federal court ruled in favor of Stratford Public Schools, which effectively dismisses this case.
Marie's lawyer said such a quick ruling is an unusual move, and now they're deciding whether or not to move forward with an appeal.
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