Kelley Williams-Bolar is a black single mother who was in school studying to become a teacher. Williams-Bolar lives in a housing project in Akron, Ohio, but she sent her two children to a school in the wealthier Copley-Fairlawn District, where her father resides. She did so out of concerns for the girls’ safety. She was trying to make a better life for her family. She was doing the best she could within the confines of an unjust system.
On Saturday, a jury found Williams-Bolar guilty on two counts of tampering with records. She was also facing one count of grand theft, but the jury could not reach a verdict. Her father, Edward L. Williams, was charged with a fourth-degree felony of grand theft. The pair were charged with defrauding the school system for two years of educational services for the girls. The Copley-Fairlawn District spent about $6,000 to bring the case to trial. That included hiring a private investigator who followed and secretly videotaped Williams-Bolar and her children. She was sentenced to ten days in jail and has also been ordered to serve three years probation and 80 hours of community service for a felony conviction. She will no longer be eligible to teach.
Superintendent Brain Poe said Copley-Fairlawn has lost hundreds of thousand of dollars because of parents illegally enrolling their children into the schools.
Poe said residency disputes are usually resolved after parents prove that they live in the district, pay tuition or remove their kids from the schools.
This marked the first time that one of their residency challenges went before a jury in criminal court. Poe said prosecuting this case was meant to send a message.
“If you’re paying taxes on a home here… those dollars need to stay home with our students,” Poe said.
As Cara at The Curvature put it:
As Superintendent Poe explicitly states up above, this is about “our” tax dollars, and keeping them where they belong. And anytime we start talking about “us” and “them,” we need to look at what we mean by those words, because it rarely reflects well on our intentions and prejudices. William-Bolar crossed a border that was designed to keep her out. She “stole” resources that were apparently not her or her children’s to have.
Dr. Boyce Watkins’ blog post is an excellent analysis of the case, and an important read.
American educational apartheid dictates that schools in poorer neighborhoods are of significantly less quality than other schools. The racial divisions within American schools are nothing less than a blatant and consistent human rights violation and should certainly be treated as such.
Williams-Bolas needs help to pay the legal fees she will incur in appealing the judge’s verdict.
You can send donations to the National Action Network Akron Chapter, c/o Kelley Williams-Bolar, P.O. Box 4152, Akron, Ohio, 44321. Checks can be made payable to Williams-Bolar.