A Black mother in Ohio is in jail for using her father’s address to have her children enrolled in a better (and predominately White) school district.
Akron resident Kelly Williams-Bolar, 40, registered her two daughters into the Copley-Fairlawn school district, listing them as residents of her father’s suburban Copley Township home. According to CNN Online, a jury found her guilty of tampering with official school records. Last week, Judge Patricia Cosgrove sentenced Williams-Bolar to five years in prison, but has suspended all but 10 days. She must also perform 80 hours of community service and will be on probation for three years.
Williams-Bolar, is a teacher’s aide at an Akron high school and is just a few classes away from completing her teaching degree at the University of Akron. However, a felony conviction would prevent her from getting a license to teach in the state of Ohio.
Her felony conviction will bar her from being licensed to teach in Ohio, a fact that Judge Cosgrove says she weighted in her decision to convict Williams-Bolar. However, according to Akron News Now, the judge submitted a letter to the Education Department asking that they allow her to be licensed regardless of her criminal record, stating that she “is a single mother of two with many good qualities.”
Williams-Bolar, who was released from prison after serving nine days of her sentence, told a CNN affilate that she and her children resided in both her home and her fathers. Her father agreed, stating that he believed they were following the rules by allowing the children to enroll in his school district, as they lived with him part time. Edward Williams (who is awaiting retrial for his own grand theft charges in the matter) also remarked that his daughter’s subsudized housing was not safe. “She had 12 police reports that her house had been broken in, so what am I supposed to do? Just leave them there?” Williams stated in an interview with WJW-TV. “I mean, I can protect them better if they was with me.”According to CNN, Akron City school district (where Williams-Bolar resides)” met only four of 26 standards issued by the Ohio Department of Education and graduates some 76% of its students. Copley-Fairlawn City Schools, where the two children were enrolled, met all 26 standards and had a graduation rate of 97.5%.
Copley-Fairlawn Superintendent Brian Poe claimed that the children cost the school district $30,000 in tuition over the course of two years and that the case cost them $8,000 to date. He also denied charges that the Williams family was singled out for an investigation because of their race. The Copley-Fairlawn district is 75% percent white.
I have countless friends and former classmates who “resided” with a grandparent, an aunt or even a friend of the family in order to gain access to a better public education. I even know people who changed residency to avoid out of state college tuition fees. It’s heartbreaking to know that these sort of measures were necessary for Williams-Bolar to get her children in to a high-performing school. It’s even more frustrating that the people of Copley-Fairlawn schools hired a private investigator to determine the children’s real address and then chose to peruse criminal charges for GRAND THEFT. While what Williams-Bolar did may not have been right, it takes a cold person to say it wasn’t okay.