Single Black Mother Jailed for Sending Her Kids to “Better” School District [UPDATE]

(Updated: 01/25/11 @ 4:30PM)

We often hear these crazy stories involving parents and children, and as is often the case, we walk away from such stories with the notion that some parents just don’t care and they should never have kids. This came up last week when we discussed truancy and parents being held accountable for the actions of their children after missing so many days of school. However, rarely do we hear stories or celebrate the individuals who do care. Individuals vested in the future of their children, enough so as to go the extra mile to get them there.

Well folks, pictured in that mugshot above is Kelly Williams-Bolar. Of course her picture above being a mugshot could only mean one thing. That’s right, she committed a criminal act and was arrested as are many people who just so happen to be parents. Her story is a bit different though; and, it’s a story you won’t hear told by president Obama at the State of the Union address tonight, or in the future. At any rate, it’s a story like most on this site, that should leave you angry:
An Ohio mother of two was sentenced to 10 days in jail and placed on three years probation after sending her kids to a school district in which they did not live.  Kelly Williams-Bolar was sentenced by Judge Patricia Cosgrove on Tuesday and will begin serving her sentence immediately.

The jury deliberated for seven hours and the courtroom was packed as the sentence was handed down.  She was convicted on two counts of tampering with court records after registering her two girls as living with their father when they actually lived with her. The family lived in the housing projects in Akron, Ohio, and the father’s address was in nearby Copley Township.

Additionally, Williams-Bolar’s father, Edward L. Williams, was charged with a fourth-degree felony of grand theft, in which he and his daughter are charged with defrauding the school system for two years of educational services for their girls.  The court determined that sending their children to the wrong school was worth $30,500 in tuition. (source)Lemme tell you something; something that I’m sure many of you can identify with. As parents, we want what’s best for our children. Be that as it may, especially when it comes to education, we do whatever we have to. What this woman did is very common in “urban” settings. I mean after all, we can’t all live in the suburbs, right? Lord forbid us actually doing what we have to do to prevent our kids from falling into the trap of the  prison pipeline via urban public schools. How dare a single black mother in the projects be so defiant.

But see folks, the tragic irony of this story is that Ms. Williams-Bolar currently works as a teacher’s aide dealing with special-needs kids. She’s also a college student near completion of a degree that would allow her to become a teacher. As much as there’s a need for black teachers in America (i.e. black teachers account for about 8% of all teachers in the U.S.), it’s a damn shame that her conviction would bar her from becoming a school teacher per Ohio law. And why? All because she wanted to keep her daughters safe as she said.

Never mind the fact that she was able to provide documentation that supports the claim of residency at her father’s home. What’s important to some, is that she should be punished for “stealing” tax payer dollars from another school district. Yep, as one columnist, Bob Dyer, put it in his piece on this case, “If your children’s education is really your primary concern, move.” Well, if only it were that easy for poor folks, Bob; if only. Funny that “privilege” thing. I mean who want’s all that “poor” rubbing off on their kids, right?
I have a particular interest in this case because I am one of the 21,000 people living in the Copley-Fairlawn district.

In other words, KelleyWilliams-Bolar stole money from my pocket.

I have paid Copley property taxes for more than two decades. Lots of Copley property taxes — 53 percent of which go directly to the Copley school system.

I’m willing to pay those big dollars because Copley has a great school system, identified by the state as ”Excellent With Distinction,” the top category.

When my kids were in school, it was a no-brainer. But even though I’m now an empty nester, I’m still willing to cough up the bucks because good schools not only help boost my property value but also are essential to an entire society’s quality of life.

Appropriately enough, on the very day Williams-Bolar was sentenced, the semiannual bill from Summit County Fiscal Officer John Donofrio arrived in my mailbox.

Williams-Bolar dipped into another pocket as well. Because I work in Akron, I pay city income tax, some of which supports the Akron school system’s massive reconstruction project. Akron is where Williams-Bolar’s kids belonged. Because she sent them elsewhere, APS lost out on state money it otherwise would have received (three times the amount Copley receives per kid).

Living in Copley or Fairlawn is hardly cost-prohibitive. Housing runs the gamut, from stately mansions to glorified shacks. A two-bedroom apartment was listed last week on for $610. A three-bedroom house in the district recently sold for $63,800.

[…] On the other hand, people who have never ventured into subsidized housing complexes and talked with the folks who live there can’t fully appreciate the level of desperation, fear and hopelessness that can infest those places. The atmosphere can cripple expectations for adults and children alike.

The surprising thing is not that so many children get into trouble there, but that some of them actually make it out intact.

Moreover, Williams-Bolar had no criminal record. She was working in a city school as a teacher’s assistant — helping special-ed kids, for goodness’ sake.

And when she wasn’t at work, she was working to better herself, taking education courses at UA.

Admirable traits, indeed. Still, do we really want to employ teachers who steal tax dollars from schools?It’s really hard for me to overlook the issue of race in relation to this case. But it’s hard for me to not see this as yet another form of racial or more specifically, economic segregation, suffered by the working poor in this country. The majority of whom, are in fact people of color. People who exist in invisibility until it’s time to throw them in jails and prisons across the country. God bless American capitalistic economic segregation.

UPDATE: Since originally posting I had the opportunity to communicate with the NAACP at the national level about this case. I was told that Regional Director will be reaching out to the Ohio’s stae president, and that they will get back to me with a report or details of that conversation. I sincerely wished this story were in the mainstream media before the conviction. At any rate, if you’d like to assist Ms. Kelly Williams-Bolar, the good folks at Change.Org are circulating a petition which calls for a Reduction on Appeal of her sentence on fraud and theft. You can click the following link to SIGN THE PETITION.