An Ohio mother of two who was working toward her teaching degree has been convicted of a felony, sentenced to 10 days in jail (suspended from 5 years), fined thousands of dollars and placed on three years of probation. Why? Because she sent her kids to school in the wrong district.
Yes, she did this knowingly. Yes, it’s against the rules.
But a felony? Jail? Well, she was poor, black and on welfare so now it makes sense.
Kelley Williams-Bolar was sentenced by Judge Patricia Cosgrove last week and she began serving her jail sentence immediately. A jury deliberated for 7 hours and, in the end, found her guilty of two counts of tampering with court records after registering her two girls as living with her father when they actually lived with her.
Bolar’s father, Edward L. Williams, was charged with fourth-degree felony of grand theft for defrauding his local school system of educational services for Bolar-Williams’ two girls.
Felonies, people. Felonies!
Williams-Bolar is a resident in a housing project in Akron, Ohio. It’s not news when I tell you that the schools for kids who live in the housing projects were overcrowded, underfunded and performed below the nearby schools serving middle-class and mostly white students. Ohio isn’t even close to being a top education state.
Other parents have done this, which of course doesn’t make it right. The same district, Copley-Fairlawn, handled several dozen other residency cases. But Williams-Bolar was the only one to face an indictment — the only one to be sentenced to jail, according to Ohio.com.
Where I live, it’s often families in good enough schools getting into even better ones. Typically, when caught, students are shipped back to their neighborhood schools, maybe the parents are fined. But jail? Felonies? That was Judge Cosgrove’s special form of justice so that Williams-Bolar would be an example to other parents who might try this. Meanwhile, the fancy school she was ripping off concedes that really? Overall? It’s rare.
Let’s look at Williams-Bolar’s case through the lens of frustrated schools trying to get parents to be more involved in their kids’ education. Some want to grade parents. Others send them to jail for not caring enough. Turns out, if you care too much and do what plenty of rich-enough white people have done, you’re good. It’s understandable. Gotta do what’s best for the kids. But when a poor single mother does it — one who can’t afford legal good enough legal representation to get the charges dropped — there’s hell to pay. Or, well, the difference in what it cost to educate her kids at the nice schools vs. what it would have cost in their home district and PS: there’s a big difference. (And that’s still not fair!)
This story’s getting life all over Facebook and plenty of people are crying foul at charges of racism. Here’s what Dr. Boyce Watkins has to say on the Boyce Blog:
This case is a textbook example of everything that remains racially wrong with America’s educational, economic and criminal justice systems. Let’s start from the top: Had Ms. Williams-Bolar been white, she likely would never have been prosecuted for this crime in the first place (I’d love for them to show me a white woman in that area who’s gone to jail for the same crime). She also is statistically not as likely to be living in a housing project with the need to break an unjust law in order to create a better life for her daughters. Being black is also correlated with the fact that Williams-Bolar likely didn’t have the resources to hire the kinds of attorneys who could get her out of this mess (since the average black family’s wealth is roughly 1/10 that of white families). Finally, economic inequality is impactful here because that’s the reason that Williams-Bolar’s school district likely has fewer resources than the school she chose for her kids. In other words, black people have been historically robbed of our economic opportunities, leading to a two-tiered reality that we are then imprisoned for attempting to alleviate. That, my friends, is American Racism 101.
So now the better district no longer has to teach the kids from the struggling district. But everyone has to pay for Williams-Bolar court expenses, the fact that she won’t be able to pull herself into the middle class. Her kids, who had parental support and a motivated mother (and grandfather), who knows what will happen to them.
I hope some benevolent legal minds will get together and convince Williams-Bolar to fight her conviction and clear her name of felony charges. What happened to her is outrageous; it’s an embarrassment for anyone who believes in fair education.
The system is broken for millions of kids. Now it’s worse for two more.