Kelly Williams-Bolar

Kelly Williams-Bolar, a black mother of two in a low-income district in Akron, Ohio, registered her children to a neighboring school district where her father lives, but the children were not based.  Because of this effort to gain access to a  better education safer school for her children [see ETA note below], Ms. Williams-Bolar was convicted of tampering with court records, sentenced to ten days in prison, three years probation, a $30,000 fine, and, because it’s a felony conviction, the judge asserted that she will not be able to get her teaching degree, though she’s just a few credits away.  More details here.

Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University, writes,

…it’s interesting how courts find it convenient to make someone into an example when they happen to be poor and black. I’d love to see how they prosecute wealthy white women who commit the same offense. Oh, I forgot: Most wealthy white women don’t have to send their kids to the schools located near the projects. …

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.

This case is also an example of how racial-inequality created during slavery and Jim Crow continues to cripple our nation to this day. There is no logical reason on earth why this mother of two should be dehumanized by going to jail and be left permanently marginalized from future economic and educational opportunities.

Rebecca O. Johnson at Urban Ecology also notes that there is a possibility that the Ohio Department of Education may not revoke Williams-Bolar’s teaching license and Judge Cosgrove may consider expunging the felony conviction.

You can help with increasing political pressure. has organized a petition demanding that that Ohio Governor Kasich pardon Ms. Williams-Bolar.  Sign the petition and forward widely!

ETA: This update is from

Edward Williams, Kelley Williams-Bolar’s father, called to clarify that her decision to enroll her children in the suburban district had nothing to do with the academic quality of the school and was because of safety issues. Williams-Bolar’s house had been broken into and she’d had to file 12 different police reports due to crime in the area, he said. Enrolling the children in the district where her father lived was a safety-based decision, and Williams wants to dispel any rumors that it was based on academics.

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