An Ohio mom will be jailed and possibly lose the opportunity to become a teacher, all because she sent her kids to a school outside their district.
According to ABC, Kelley Williams-Bolar wasn't happy with the schools in Akron, where she lived — so she used her dad's address to enroll her daughters in the nearby Copley-Fairlawn School District (she still maintains that the girls lived part-time with their grandfather). But the school district found out and took her to court. Now she's been convicted of tampering with records — a felony — and she'll spend 10 days in jail. Due to her felony conviction, she also might be denied a teaching certificate, when she was just a few credits away from getting her teaching degree.
Copley-Fairlawn defends its actions by arguing that Williams-Bolar was "cheating" by sending her kids to a district where she wasn't paying taxes — said officials, "Those dollars need to stay home with our students." But as many are pointing out, the way tax dollars are apportioned to schools isn't exactly fair in the first place. Writes Carol Scott of Change.org,
It's a sad truth that public schools in American vary widely in quality, safety and affluence. Kids in one zip code can get top-notch teachers and swanky classrooms while kids just a few miles away make do with cast-off books and rat-infested hallways. Your education can determine your future — and Williams-Bolar wanted her daughters to have a brighter one. She told the court that she'd been scared for her daughters' safety at Akron schools, and that there was no intention at all to deceive school officials.
Copley Township, which shares the Copley-Fairlawn District with Fairlawn Township, is 86.4% white and 8.6% black. Just 3.3% of its families live below the poverty line. Akron, as of the 2000 census, was 67.22% white and 28.48% black, and 14% of its families lived in poverty. Clearly this isn't just a case of one woman "cheating" — it's about race and class, and how these play into education in America. Writes Elon James White on Salon, "we can't possibly ignore the racial aspect of this situation. A poor BLACK woman on public assistance is being jailed for sending her kids to the rich white school."
White also says, "I'm not saying Kelley Williams-Bolar was right" — and indeed, nobody's arguing that fraud is the best answer to America's education problems. But we need to admit that those problems exist, that inequalities in our schools mean that poor black families don't have access to the same kind of public education wealthy white ones do. If we actually made the same opportunities available to every student, then parents like Williams-Bolar wouldn't feel the need to game the system. And a mom wouldn't have to face the destruction of her dreams just because she tried to help her kids achieve theirs.
Ohio Mom Kelley Williams-Bolar Jailed For Sending Kids To Better School District [ABC]
Judge Says Prosecutors Rejected Lesser Charges In Copley Schools Residency Case [Ohio.com]
Kelley Williams-Bolar: Mom Jailed For Wanting To Give Kids A Better Life [Salon]
Why Is Kelley Williams-Bolar In Jail For Sending Her Kids To A Better School? [Change.org]