Kelley Williams-Bolar, 40, of Akron, Ohio, wanted better for her daughters than her local school district, where 14% of its residents live below the poverty line and which met only 4 of 26 school standards. To boot, Williams-Bolar also felt the neighborhood was unsafe, especially after her own home was broken into. So she did what any mama grizzly would do—she enrolled them in the nearby Copley-Fairlawn School district, where only 3.3% of the families live below the poverty line, and where 100% of standards are met. To do this, she used her dad's address, with whom she claims her daughters lived part-time. After she ignored bills from the school district for $30,000 in back tuition, the district hired a private investigator to film her driving her daughters to school from her own home. Then, it took Williams-Bolar to court on grounds of lying about residency (that's a felony), where she was found guilty and sent to jail. She's out now, but her dreams of becoming a teacher (she worked as a teacher’s aide with special education children and was a few credits short of her degree) are kaput (thanks to the felony conviction) and her girls are back to square one.
Whether or not you think it was morally wrong that Williams-Bolar lied, the story highlights the inequality of our schools in quality, safety and affluence, and the need for reform.
Ohio educational funding has been deemed unconstitutional for 13 years because of funding disparities. And all over the country, one school may receive surplus resources while another one down the road doesn't have working plumbing or enough textbooks. Unless this changes, we can expect this to happen again and again. If you ask around, you’ll find it already does. I mean, how tempting would it be to jump over to the sunnier side of the street when your kids' futures were at stake? Just what wouldn’t you do to ensure they got the best education possible?
But, this problem is ultimately rooted even deeper than our schools. As Salon's Elon James White writes, “we can't possibly ignore the racial aspect of this situation. A poor BLACK woman on public assistance is being jailed for sending her kids to the rich white school." And now it seems she’s being unjustly punished in an effort to deter others from attempting similar actions, given that most of these kinds of cases never end up in court, let alone end with jail time.
What do you think, should this mom have been jailed for her actions, which seem to have been motivated only by the best of intentions?