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. Change.org 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 change.org:
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.
This is an outrage and a miscarriage of justice. In the interest of justice, this conviction should be overturned and the charges dismissed. Shame!
This is crazy! Are they for real? Not letting her get her teaching certification?! Really, that sounds cruel and unusual to me. What can we do about this?!?
The cost of her two children attending the schools illeagaly was $35,000. Anyone else who steals $35,000 gets 10 YEARS in prison she should not be allowed to teach
Awful! How can even think of doing this when she was clearly trying to do the best she could for her children.
Thanks so much for bringing attention to this issue. Since it first came across my desk, we at United Black America have done everything in our administrative power to hold the judge (http://unitedblackamerica.com/wtf-black-mother-gets-felony-for-sending-kids-to-a-better-school) and the county officials accountable. Keep up the fight against information ignorance!
June 29, 2004: Kelley Williams-Bolar signs Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA) lease for a single family home on Hartford Avenue in Akron, Ohio. She lists her two daughters as living with her, which qualified her for the home.
March 2005: Williams-Bolar receives informational packet from Copley-Fairlawn Schools.
January 1, 2006 to December 31, 2007: AMHA Tenant Report lists Williams-Bolar residence as Hartford Avenue in Akron, along with her two daughters.
August 22, 2006: Williams-Bolar signs a free lunch application for her children at Copley-Fairlawn Schools. She does not list any income but lists more than $800 in monthly child support.
September 11, 2006: Williams-Bolar signs sworn residency statement retroactive to August 22, 2006; statement reads: “If these statements are not factual and if evidence is found later to show that these facts are not true, I understand that I will owe tuition of $851 per month, per student.”
April 23, 2007: Copley school officials drive to grandparents Black Pond Drive, Copley address and witness Williams-Bolar sitting in a car with her daughter waiting for the school bus. School calls Williams-Bolar and questions her residence; she’s adamant she and girls live on Black Pond Drive in Copley.
April 25, 2007: Williams-Bolar changes her driver’s license to reflect Black Pond Drive, Copley address.
May 12, 2007: Edward Williams signs residency form with Summit County Department of Job & Family Services, renewing his application for benefits. He indicates he lives at Black Pond Drive alone.
September 6, 2007 – October 9, 2007: School surveyed Hartford Avenue, Akron and Black Pond, Copley addresses. Report includes videotape showing Williams-Bolar and children spending the night at Hartford and driving to Black Pond to catch the bus each morning.
October 2, 2007: Williams-Bolar signs free lunch application for 2007 school year; lists no income or child support. An investigation later confirmed she received $800/month in child support in addition to income from employment with Akron Public Schools.
October 26, 2007: Residency Hearing – Williams-Bolar testifies she and her daughters live at Black Pond, Copley address with her parents. No evidence to counter the Board’s finding of false residency. That same day, Williams-Bolar changes her address for her Towpath Credit Union to Black Pond address.
October 31, 2007: Williams-Bolar changes her address with employer, Akron Public Schools, from Hartford Avenue, Akron to Black Pond Drive, Copley. (Akron Schools receives change of address post-residency hearing.)
October 31, 2007: Edward Williams, Diana Williams, and Williams-Bolar filed notarized Grandparent Power of Attorney (POA) Affidavit in Juvenile Court, saying that children live with grandparents on Black Pond. (May 23, 2008: Williams and Williams-Bolar fail to appear in Juvenile Court; June 3, 2008: Judge Teodosio voids POA as false. Teodosio rules the POA was invalid in its inception. The ruling has not been not appealed.)
November 13, 2007: Treasurer sends tuition bill to Williams-Bolar and Williams for past tuition.
November 16, 2007: Edward Williams faxes school letter refusing to pay tuition since it’s a public school.
January 29, 2008: Williams-Bolar confirms to AMHA that children are attending Copley schools but she and children reside at Hartford Avenue in Akron.
February 8, 2008: School sends invoice to Williams-Bolar for tuition. Invoice returned: “Return to sender person has deployed overseas return in 18 months.”
February 22, 2008: AMHA interviews Williams-Bolar and questions “deployment.” Bolar admits she lied; confirms she and children reside at Hartford Avenue in Akron; handwrote on statement confirming she and children reside at Hartford and that parent’s address just used to enroll children in Copley.
May 15, 16, 17, 2008: Updated surveillance confirms Williams-Bolar still taking children to school bus stop in Copley.
June 16, 2008: Williams and Williams-Bolar file civil rights complaint with U.S. Department of Education claiming racial discrimination. (December 10, 2008: U.S. Department of Education, Civil Rights Division found no discrimination.)
October 22, 2009: Williams-Bolar and father indicted on charges.
January 12, 2011: Jury trial commences.
January 15, 2011: Jury finds Williams-Bolar guilty of two counts of tampering with evidence, felonies of the third degree, for falsifying multiple residency records and reduced lunch applications. Verdict deadlocked on grand theft charges against Williams and Williams-Bolar.
January 19, 2011: Judge Patricia Cosgrove sentences Williams-Bolar to five years of prison, suspended, three years of probation, and 80 hours of community service. Cosgrove sends Williams-Bolar to a ten day jail term, and Williams-Bolar eventually serves nine days in jail.
January 31, 2011: State dismisses deadlocked charges.
I want to say thank you so much for talking about my (case) situation.I began blogging because it is therapeutic and I started noticing many blogs about my case. I am filled with over whelming gratitude and I give thanks to everyone that signed my petition and spoke on my behalf. I will have a autobiography coming soon. Hopefully before the new year. I wish every one well Thank you so much. We are all a family in some form or fashion. Feel free to highlight and stay up to date with my blogs. God bless http://students4revolution.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/the-kelley-williams-bolar-story-we-all-have-a-story/