Send Your Kids To The Wrong School: A Felony?


Earlier this year, the case of†Kelley Williams-Bolar, a single mother of two, made national headlines after she†was†charged with a third-degree felony and sentenced to ten days in prison.†Her crime: Wanting to make sure her children had a safe place to attend school.

In 2006,†after her home in a housing project in Akron was burglarized, Williams-Bolar decided to send her children to†school in†the suburban Copley-Fairlawn district, where her father was living; she said that she and her daughters were living part-time with him. But the Copley-Fairlawn school district hired a private investigator and discovered she was living at least part of the time in Akron. Williams-Bolar was asked to pay $30,000 in back tuition; she refused and was convicted of falsifying her residency records.†Williams-Bolar was ordered to serve a suspended sentence of ten days and was released on January 18, one day early, after being given credit for time served, she was jailed immediately following her 2009 arrest. She was also†given two years of probation and 80 hours of community service.

In February, the charges of grand theft were dismissed against Williams-Bolar and Ohio Governor John Kasich asked the Ohio Parole Board to review her felony conviction.†Williams-Bolar had been working as a special education teaching assistant and had no prior criminal record but, unless the felony is eliminated from her record, she will be unable to get a teaching certificate under Ohio law.

As reported on Babble, September 2, the Ohio Parole Board, after reviewing Williams-Bolar’s case, has recommended that she not be pardoned. According to the Associated Press, the Board said that she “could have solved her schooling situation legitimately and was dishonest before and after her conviction”:

ďMs. Williams-Bolar was faced with a no more difficult situation than any other working parent who must ensure that their children are safe during, before and after school hours in their absence,Ē it said in its unanimous ruling. ďMost parents find legitimate and legal options to address this issue. Ms. Williams-Bolarís only response was to be deceitful.Ē

The board also rejected Williams-Bolarís arguments that her conviction harmed her future plans, noting that she has hardly made the efforts necessary to obtain a degree to teach.

Summit County chief assistant prosecutor Brad Gessner also told the board that Williams-Bolar had “options when school officials questioned her about her residency but instead changed her address on her driverís license and bank and employment documents.”

In July, Williams-Bolar had told the board that she was remorseful for lying and, if given the chance, would have taken different actions. “I love my kids and I would have done anything for my children,Ē she said at the hearing.

For the time being, Williams-Bolar is working as a teacherís assistant at Akron public schools. Williams-Bolarís older daughter is now attending a public high school in Akron while her younger daughter attends a private middle school on a voucher. It’s up to Governor Kasich to decide her case. As Babble points out, Governor Kasich is himself a big proponent of school vouchers and has “used the case to highlight expanded access to educational alternatives, including vouchers”; Williams-Bolar’s case has become a “rallying point for advocates of school choice”. The parole board indeed asked if Williams-Bolar had considered vouchers.

But Williams-Bolar’s case really isn’t just about vouchers and school choice but about much broader issues.

What the parole board didnít ask was why Williams-Bolar just didnít move into the school district and make it legit. Is it because itís too expensive? Why didnít she try for state subsidized public housing in that area? Is it because there isnít public housing in the good school districts? Well, why not? Whether you think her punishment was too severe or right on, thatís the question we should be asking. Why donít poor people have guaranteed access to good schools? Why do good public schools get to be exclusive? And why is it so often people of color, like Williams-Bolar and her girls, who face these exclusions?

Finding herself with simply few choices, Williams-Bolar did what she could — at a terrible price — to give her daughters a chance for a better education and future. She has admitted her mistakes and served time in jail for them, and there is no issue now with her children’s school situation. Isn’t it time for the state of Ohio to let go of the case against Williams-Bolar?


Previous Care2 Coverage

Ohio Gov. Kasich Orders Review of Williams-Bolarís Felony Conviction

Charges of Grand Theft Dropped Against Williams-Bolar

Sending Your Kid to the Wrong School Could Land You Five Years Behind Bars


Photo from The Curvature

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Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener4 years ago

An outrage! It's not like there is a lot of choice out there.

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons4 years ago

I went to the wrong counties school for 6 years from elementary school on and it was hard switching back to the correct county I lost all my friends and didn't get to go to band. There should be a law that all schools are funded equally and all children should have the same opportunity regardless of what community you live in. Rich should not be able to buy a better education it should all be equal.

Lika S.
Lika S.4 years ago

Yup. Protect your kids by sending them to a school district that you live in part time, be imprisoned for being a concerned mom.

Beat the crap out of your children to the point you break their arm because they're brats, get the same sentence of 10 days in jail.

Sounds like a perfectly logical legal system. NOT!!! Maybe she should sue the school districts for abusing impoverished parents and breaking up families.

Kathleen D.
Kathleen D.4 years ago

Let's face it; many parents are going to keep their kids close to home, and, close to their kids' friends. Just the way it is. As we can all see, this woman was not posing a threat to anyone. She was well on her way to getting the education she needed to pursue a career in education, herself. What a shame that it was determined there was no other way to work with her than to charge her as a FELON, leaving a huge blemish on any application she ever fills out. I applaud the woman, and if all parents went to the nth degree to see their kids get the best chance at life, I would applaud them as well.
At this point, since this case is far from over, I would just tell this woman to keep her chin up, eyes forward, and know that those of us who are behind her will do our part in seeing this case has a positive outcome.

Diane L.
Diane L.4 years ago

Kathleen, as always,your comments are well stated, but I just disagree for many reasons. I grew up in public housing, went to a "poor" high school and didn't want to go there, but had to! There was no more crime or violence there than any other high school in Seattle (there were 9 at the time) and the school was about 75% minority at the time. It still is, 50 years later. During the last year I was there, two new high schools were built, and neither had a senior class. The "rule" was that they didn't think kids would want to transfer to a new school for their senior year. Next year, many parents still didn't want their kids "transferred" to the new schools, but you know what.......if EVERYBODY decided they could pick and choose whatever school they wanted their kids to go to, I think it would result in utter chaos. Okay, so YOU want your kid to have the best education does every other parent, I'd assume. What if ALL parents wanted their kid to go to "School #1) and that would leave the rest with just WHOM?

Kathleen D.
Kathleen D.4 years ago

offended. Is it really any skin off any of the nose's of those feeling so indignant over this woman and her need to feel her children will be safer in a different school district? I think not!

Kathleen D.
Kathleen D.4 years ago

What I mean is that elected officials make the laws but very often find loopholes for themselves, while they are willing to exercise law to the fullest extent. It is my understanding that this woman's father owned a home in the district and she was using his address information to school her children in that district. So, essentially, her father was or 'is' paying property taxes in that district, and he may no longer even have children of school age. Seriously, have we become so regimented in our ideaology that we would she a parent who wants a good start for their children, go to prison, or her own career opportunities come to an end?
I had a client who did the same thing several years ago because she and her family had moved to a new neighborhood. She and her husband lived in an upscale neighborhood and were moving to another high end area but they liked the schoold their children were in and that's where all the kids friends were as well. For two years, until their last kid started high school, she would drive them to, and pick them up from school. I can guarantee you, school officials had to know at some point what was going on, yet nothing would ever have bee done to 'punish' the parents. Nor should there have been any need to, but to punish the poor because they 'dare' to give their children a better life, is wrong.
The facts of poor schools having higher crime rates has been proven and can be statiscally researched by anyone who is so high and mighty to be o

Lisa Stripling
Lisa Stripling4 years ago

@ Randi,

Well heck if someone could be sued for being stupid, the courts would never get a break.

Rosemary Graf
Rosemary Graf4 years ago

Parents shouldn't be punish when they are trying to get the best education for their children.

Diane L.
Diane L.4 years ago

Grace, kids are beat up and assaulted in the best of schools! Sometimes the ones with minorities in poor neighborhoods actually are far safer. There are never certainties based on "where" a school happens to be located or how rich the parents of the students are.