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Board Says Mom Who Faked Address for Better Schools Should Not be Pardoned

By Madeline Holler |

kelley williams-bolar, public schools education

Kelley Williams-Bolar has to wait for Ohio Governor to decide if she's a criminal or just desperate.

Remember Kelley Williams-Bolar? She’s the Akron, Ohio, mom who was convicted of a felony and jailed for nine days in January for sending her daughters to good schools in a suburban district where they didn’t live.

Williams-Bolar had asked for a pardon from the state’s governor in July. Her lawyers argued that any felonies on her record threatened her ability to earn a teacher’s license and get work as a teacher. But the Ohio Parole Board, which reviewed Williams-Bolar’s case, recommended that the single mother of two not be pardoned.

Now it’s up to Ohio Governor John Kasich to decide.

Lawyers working for Williams-Bolar, who lived in Akron public housing, argued that their client was desperate to get her daughters into safe schools and, as such, she had made mistakes. Among them, she falsified forms, claiming to be serving in the military overseas, and changing the address on her driver’s license and bank account when suburban Copley-Fairlawn school administrators first questioned her. Williams-Bolar had used her father’s address, which was inside the boundaries of the higher-performing Copley-Fairlawn schools.

But the parole board, defending its recommendation to let her conviction stand, said that Williams-Bolar could have easily fixed the matter when district officials first approached her. From the Associated Press:

“Ms. 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,” it said in its unanimous ruling. “Most parents find legitimate and legal options to address this issue. Ms. Williams-Bolar’s only response was to be deceitful.”

The Copley-Fairlawn district started cracking down on out-of-district parents back in 2005 and has resolved cases of illegal student attendance with 47 families. However, they say they were unable to reach an agreement with Williams-Bolar and were forced to turn her case over to prosecutors.

In its recommendation, the board also stated it wasn’t buying that Williams-Bolar was working toward becoming a teacher, since she hadn’t shown any evidence of working toward that goal. Earlier stories reported that she had been a few credits shy of her degree.

Back in 2007, when she was first charged, her daughters were 9 and 13  years old. Currently, the oldest goes to school in Akron and the younger one is attending a private high school as a part of the state’s voucher program.

Gov. Kasich is a big proponent of state school vouchers. From the AP:

Kasich has used the case to highlight expanded access to educational alternatives, including vouchers, and it became a rallying point for advocates of school choice.

It will be interesting to see what he does with Williams-Bolar’s conviction. The parole board apparently asked whether she had considered school vouchers, which would have been an option at the time, or moving her family in with her father.

That is something that, in hindsight, would seem to be the easiest solution. But was the father’s home big enough? Was it just an apartment? I can see where in a system that went a long time without confirming residency of its students, the price of living with her father might have been too steep — for both of them.

Focusing on vouchers is a problem, too. There simply aren’t enough vouchers — or funding — for all underserved students. Vouchers are just a convenient way to put the blame of bad education on parents instead of putting the burden of public education on the public.

What the parole board didn’t ask was why Williams-Bolar just didn’t move into the school district and make it legit. Is it because it’s too expensive? Why didn’t she try for state subsidized public housing in that area? Is it because there isn’t public housing in the good school districts? Well, why not? Whether you think her punishment was too severe or right on, that’s the question we should be asking. Why don’t 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?


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About Madeline Holler


Madeline Holler

Madeline Holler is a writer, journalist, and blogger. She has written for Babble since the site launched in 2006. Her writing has appeared in various other publications both online and in print, including Salon and True/Slant (now Forbes). A native of the Midwest, Madeline lives, writes, and parents in Southern California, where she's raising two daughters and a son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Madeline's latest posts →

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47 thoughts on “Board Says Mom Who Faked Address for Better Schools Should Not be Pardoned

  1. Lisa says:

    Why didn’t she just move into the district?

    She’s not the only person faced with the choice of having to pay more than they want or really can afford to send their kids to good schools.

    She lied. She was caught. She was sentenced. No, she shouldn’t be a teacher…. certainly no district would ever hire her after this.

  2. Lisa says:

    Why was one school district out performing the other?

  3. goddess says:

    Why do public schools get to be exclusive? Because they are largely funded by property taxes collected form those who are legal residents.
    Despite being on welfare, Section 8 housing and food stamps, she said the reason she didn’t want to move in with her family is that: “she wanted to keep her independence.”. THAT is how skewed the thinking was- on various entitlement programs and yet she still felt she was doing it on her own.
    She either lied and falsified legal forms with the public housing authority or the school district. That’s a felony, folks. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

  4. Lisa says:

    How are Ohio schools funded? Local property taxes? State funding? a mix?

  5. goddess says:

    @Lisa: Because Akron, Ohio is largely a slum. Copley is a wealthier ‘burb.

  6. goddess says:

    A mix. The ratio is depending on how many levies a local district of voters is willing to pass. In our district,w e typically pass every school, library and special ed levy requested. The result is we have a very strong performing district. If enrollment were open, the taxpayers would not be nearly as willing to keep supporting those schools for people from other communities to use at will. Cleveland- our biggest burbs gets roughly 63% more per child in taxes.
    Here’s a good read:

  7. Lisa says:

    What she did was fraud.

  8. Manjari says:

    “Ms. 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,” it said in its unanimous ruling. “Most parents find legitimate and legal options to address this issue. Ms. Williams-Bolar’s only response was to be deceitful.”

    No. Most parents in her situation don’t find any options to address the issue. They are just stuck. They don’t have the resources all the judgmental assholes have, so they have to send their kids to schools that are sub-par or even unsafe.

  9. Lisa says:


    She did have choices. Her father lived in that community. She chose not to live with him to ‘be independent.’ Ohio has a voucher program which she did eventually utilize.

  10. goddess says:

    Pulease Manjari- I started from a poor family with nothing, as did my husband with immigrant parents and 8 kids in the family. We worked our way up through factory and machine shop jobs to get what we have today. We moved to put our kids in better schools. Worked and saved and moved. I believe she could have done the same- she had far more help than we did.

  11. goddess says:

    And from the newspaper today:
    “The board also noted that Williams-Bolar is “nowhere near obtaining a college degree.”

    “The consequence of her conviction is not a real harm, as she has hardly made the efforts necessary to obtain a degree to fulfill her desire to become a teacher,” the board wrote.

    The board also noted that Williams-Bolar had plenty of opportunities to resolve the issue with the Copley schools after the district confronted her numerous times about her children living outside the district. The mother instead, the board said, chose a “pattern of deceitful behavior, both before and after her criminal indictment.” ”

  12. Nicole says:

    Wow you guys are harsh. What she did was totally wrong but she didn’t deserve 9 days in jail. Many drunk drivers get community service for their actions. This lady got jail time for wanting her kids to be in a good school. Does’t seem fair to me.

  13. goddess says:

    Well maybe I want my kids to have a great college education and I will embezzle county funds to cover the costs. Don’t throw me in ja for that. just want the best for my kids and won’t make any changes or efforts on my own part to do so legally.
    Did you MISS the part about REPEATEDLY and deliberately falsifying documents? That IS a felony. And if you are stealing tax money you deserve more than a handful of days in jail.

  14. Manjari says:

    College is optional, but school for kids is mandatory. It’s disgusting that any kids have to be in unsafe schools. The parole board saying most parents find legal ways to address the issue just bothers me. If every parent had the ability to just move to an area with better schools, there wouldn’t be any kids in the worst schools. I’m not saying the mom didn’t break the law, and maybe she should have lived with her dad. I just can’t get as outraged about her actions as I am about the disparity between schools in poorer and richer areas.

  15. Gretchen Powers says:

    If all schools were private schools, this wouldn’t even be an issue.

  16. Gretchen Powers says:

    I won’t comment on her sentence. I am not a judge. But, understand that this is incorrect: “This lady got jail time for wanting her kids to be in a good school.” She didn’t just WANT this, she falsified multiple documents to try to make it happen. People WANT a lot of thing. I want a million dollars, but I don’t steal it. Guess I am not that ambitious.

  17. Lisa says:


    What makes a school unsafe? I mean seriously… do you think the teachers are going around forcing the kids to beat each other up? Do you think that adults are handing out wedgies and hitting them with baseball bats?

  18. Lisa says:

    “If every parent had the ability to just move to an area with better schools, there wouldn’t be any kids in the worst schools.”

    What makes a school the worst? Do you believe the teachers in those schools just turn on ESPN and smoke in the teacher’s lounge? Do you believe that chemistry class is simply a methods class for creating crack? No. What makes the school the worst? Why are the scores so bad?

    Once you answer that question, you have to ask how will the ability to move to better schools eliminate the worst schools.

  19. DRo says:

    I’m with Manjari on this. Most of the comments here come from the perspective of white privilege. As for why she didn’t move in with her father, there could be a dozen reasons for not doing so. Perhaps he is abusive or something, but she didn’t want to advertise it to the nation. I don’t fault her at all for doing what she did. And how are private schools the answer? Would this woman be able to afford a good private school? The answer is that all public schools need to be equally good. This requires, among other things, better pay for teachers to attract the best. You can google articles that discuss the latest PISA study to see how other countries like Finland are ranking highest on education. A major overhaul of the education system is needed.

  20. DRo says:

    And Lisa, your questions about how schools are unsafe are just dumb and naive.

  21. Gretchen Powers says:

    “The answer is that all public schools need to be equally good.”=FANTASY
    How are we even supposed to take a statement like that seriously? The schools need just be “good enough” and then add a healthy dose of parental involvement, and the kids would do fine. If this woman used all the guile and energy she spent falsifying documents on helping her kids with their homework or otherwise enriching them, they’d be fine. The Finnish are much more earnest than Americans, so that’s not a great example. We are spending more money than ever on education, and still, some schools are just crappy. Private schools would solve the problem because no private institution would thrive if it was as crappy as these public schools. I am being theoretical, of course. I believe Lisa’s questions are intentional and she’s trying to get people to think about what REALLY is the problem, without actually saying something politically incorrect.

  22. Canucker says:

    A felony??? Shocking! A country that is in such dire financial turmoil will waste their tax payers money on such a frivolous lawsuit! A mother/father wanting a SAFE safe school with high educational standards should be a RIGHT not a WANT. Shame on the government! Maybe they should be taking a hard look at their educational system that causes parents to take such drastic measures to provide the best for their children!

  23. Manjari says:

    I’ve taught in some really struggling schools in Philadelphia, and some of them are, in fact, unsafe. Children get hurt or are scared at school. I spoke to the principal about a student of mine. I SAW a boy kick her hard in the back. This girl was teased and tormented. The principal’s response? The girl needs assertiveness training. No consequence for the bullies. This same principal was under a lot of pressure to make AYP, and so told us to concentrate on the kids who seemed capable of going up a level on the standardized tests. Also, the school that this mother lied to send her kids to spends quite a bit more per student than the school her kids should have been attending. So even though public education is free in this country, you still get what you pay for depending on how much you can spend on your house. I get Lisa’s point, but I don’t think the answer is to just write off people who live under such circumstances. And I agree with DRO about the white privilege evident in these comments. As long as it’s THEM and not your kids, it’s easier to blame those families and pretend there is no inequality going on at all.

  24. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    Lisa’s premise is that poor minorities are the problem. Goddess is “one of the good ones” aka a model minority whose example should be followed. It’s all about the bootstraps, without acknowledging the societal hurdles to obtaining string. Rinse, repeat.

  25. Madeline Holler says:

    Gretchen, if all schools were private this would be an even bigger problem! That’s actually one of the problems with public schools — their funding is connected with the wealth of the district in which they are.

  26. DRo says:

    Gretchen, fine, they need to be equally good *enough*. But they aren’t. And by “equally”, I mean a significant step away from the disparity that presently exists. Obviously things cannot be precisely equal — how would you even measure such a thing. My point is that this problem is everyone’s business. You and Lisa act like it is entirely up to the parents to make sure their kids get a decent education. First of all, that isn’t fair to the kids who have crappy parents, and does no good for the rest of us to leave those kids to fend for themselves. Second, it’s much easier to have that opinion when you’re “born on third” and don’t have to go all the way around the bases to get to home.

  27. DRo says:

    And Goddess’ story is a good one, but the key element is that she has a working husband who shares her ideals. So much harder for a single mother to raise her family out of despair.

  28. DRo says:

    And how do you know that she *isn’t* an involved parent? Helping your kids with their homework still doesn’t help them with being stuck at a low-end/unsafe school.

  29. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    “Lisa’s premise is that poor minorities are the problem. Goddess is “one of the good ones” aka a model minority whose example should be followed. It’s all about the bootstraps, without acknowledging the societal hurdles to obtaining string. Rinse, repeat.” Hear, hear! These types of threads always want to make me tear my hair out. There’s so little practical knowledge about what it’s really like to be poor in America, that everything that follows is just crap.

  30. Gretchen Powers says:

    No school or any public area should be unsafe…it’s true, keeping public spaces safe is a basic job of government, and it seems it has failed. So, these schools are already the product of government involvement gone wrong. If anything this is an example of a failing, not really inspiring me to want to throw more money at it. Perhaps if a private entity or charter school opened, there’d be more accountability, better use of funds, etc. The questions asked in the post are thought-provoking, but, unfortunately, we have only the rights to “life, liberty and the PURSUIT of happiness” not necessarily the right to a free public education. I think Lisa’s questions drive at matters people just don’t want to address. WHO is it that is making this neighborhood unsafe? I don’t think “privileged white people” are hanging around shooting up the place and robbing people. At what point are adults to be held responsible for their own communities? You can throw money at some people forever and the outcome would still be the same. Sadly, this is manifested in this woman’s willfulness to break the law when there were other options available to her. And, where’s these kids’ father, anyway?

  31. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    There but for the grace of the right combination of socioeconomic circumstances, go I. My mom stayed in an abusive marriage to a “good provider” who beat her mercilessly for 20 years. To make sure my brother and I got to live in a nice Jersey suburb and go to good schools.
    We don’t *know* this woman’s circumstances. Maybe her father abused her. Who knows why she didn’t want to live with him, really. But I find it pretty fucking reprehensible the way people would RATHER condemn her (all of her circumstances of which we cannot know) to defend a system we KNOW fails wide swaths of the population. You bristle at being called privileged… rather than being grateful for your circumstance. Hell, I recognize my own privilege every goddamned day. You’re not exceptional. You’re lucky.

  32. Manjari says:


  33. Whatevs says:

    There’s a phrase that aptly describes the attitude that many people have: “Born on third, think you hit a triple”.

  34. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    And use “The Bell Curve” to explain everyone born on second or first.

  35. Dawn Rose says:

    I feel for this mom. The schools in my area are awful and I would give up everything to make sure my children go to any other school than these (my daughter starts school next year) Yes, she falsified documents, but did it to give her children the chance are a better education. She broke the law, but jail time??? Too much. Besides, it’s not like she created a random address. She used her father’s. To this day I use my mother’s address as a mailing address because I used to move frequently for work, and by using her address ensured nothing would get lost in the mail. Should I have to spend time in jail for that, too? It’s not much different. I think the school should have given her notice or something: move within a certain amount of time or have children transfered. But criminal charges is excessive in my opinion.

  36. GP says:

    Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful and I don’t think I’m exceptional. This woman took a chance and she lost. Hopefully the gov will be merciful.

  37. Bunnytwenty says:

    Scorpio: hear, hear. People love to condemn when they should be saying, “There but for the grace of god go I.” Because it’s true.

  38. TBerry says:

    I think that nine days in jail is lenient for the crime. She has stolen from the school district. I understand wanting your child in better schools but there has to be another way that doesn’t include lying and essentially stealing from the school district. If someone had embezzled the cost of sending two children (I don’t know what the per child cost is there but in some places it is $3,500 or more) then they would go to jail for a longer period of time. If the embezzler was doing it to feed his/her children or to keep a roof over their heads it wouldn’t matter. I know moving is expensive and so are some towns are more expensive to live in than others but we make sacrifices for our children, even if it is our independence. A good education does not negate the bad example she gave her kids of lying to get what she wanted instead of finding an honest way to make it work.

  39. GP says:

    Mama is a hustla…and so goes the cycle…

  40. DRo says:

    If she would have moved in with her father, she still would have been “stealing” b/c she still wouldn’t have been paying the property taxes. A better way to think of it: her father was paying the property taxes for his grandchildren. That should be enough.

    If you have never broken a law that you thought was stupid or unfair, by all means keep talking.

    You have no idea about her backstory. Perhaps she did try many other ways to make it work. There isn’t always a solution. Get it through your thick heads, people!! Sheesh. Why does everyone assume that everyone on welfare is lazy or stupid? I would bet that 90% of welfare recipients are doing everything they can to get out of that state.

  41. Diane Fox says:

    She is receiving assistance from the government possibly because she didn’t receive a decent education and wants a better life for her children!! Some people have no soul anymore!! These children ought to be able to go to school WHERE EVER they want if its a PUBLIC school then they should be educating the PUBLICS children and no borders allowed!

  42. Ashley says:

    Yeah, she broke the law, and sounds like she probably had other, legal options. But a felony? Really?? That seems like overkill. I think a fine would have been a more appropriate punishment.

  43. Megan says:

    Moving to a different city/town with a better school district is not always an option even when you live a supposedly middle class life. Both of my parents were public school teachers. I have a masters degree, and am working in my field, yet I make less than $40,00/year. My husband has a bachelor’s degree and can’t get hired in his field in this economy because he has too much experience and education for an entry level position, and not enough for a mid-level position, so he’s working part-time retail to try to keep us afloat. We own our house and our mortgage is less than $400/month and we still can’t afford private school(although we wouldn’t send our kids to the ones by us since they are ALL religious. We need to travel over an hour to find a secular private school) My son’s elementary school has been labeled failing under NCLB, however we still don’t have any options because it is the only elementary school in the district(rural town of about 10,00). Even if there was or the district entered into an agreement with a higher-performing neighboring school district, my son still wouldn’t be eligible for transfer under the mandates of the law because he has been labeled gifted(which he is, it just makes him ineligible to be classified as an at risk student, which are the only students at a failing school who are eligible for transfer under NCLB). We have to drive over an hour to get to the nearest charter school also, but that doesn’t help anyway because the only charter school in my state that is open to any student(as opposed to students who reside in the district) is the Illinois Math and Science Academy, which is for 10th-12th graders, which does no good for my 3rd grader.

  44. Megan says:

    I missed a zero. It should be less than $40,000

  45. Melissa says:

    The women needs to be held accountable for what she did. I think they need to follow through with charges but it should be reduced to a misdemeanor. I think felony fraud charges is over doing it a bit.

  46. M says:

    I understand why she did what she did and I do think the sentence was too harsh. She was trying to get her kids out of the slum schools. BUT it is unfair to those of us who work our butts off to live in a good neighborhood, in a house that costs more, where taxes are higher, and school taxes are even more. I pay thousands of dollars a year just in school taxes. Yes, I’d be fuming if someone from the neighboring district decided that even though she pays 3k less a year her kids could go to our district’s school on my dollar. Why don’t we all move to cheaper neighborhoods and send our kids to the richer schools?

  47. Diana says:

    fraud is fraud , do the crime pay the time , im struggling right now to the point im looking at foster care or adoption for my three children all under the age of 4 thanks to my idiot husband who i am leaving, but if i steal your credit card and am caught trying to survive and keep my children . I go to jail simple as that I would be charged with fraud and theft she did a crime but because shes african american she got a pass not so for me.equality my arse only entitlement for “minoritys” the moran isnt doing it alone shes having her cake and eating it too on your tax dollers plus she does drugs and drinks but doesnt make her own money to afford it and does illegal things like fraud and lord knows what else?Our whole goverment and laws are skewed , Obama promised change so I voted for him hoping job growth would occur thinking he was the next jfk with what he PROMISED believing his lies but he was no differant then Bush false promises false hope a dead economy.. I wouldnt want her adding to the crappy schools with her morals and stuped judgment i know her story shes a con, she had an opportuinity to correct things and still went the decietfull way she deserves more then what she got . America is based on equality,freedom, rights yet only half get that….we need a new congress and new face for america as president I dont care of there skin color as we are all human yet seperate ourselves due to color,i care of there character and morality and views of fair treatment for all to make america the yellow brick road it once was and bring it up from the slum.Whats wrong with america is too much to write we need jobs but without them we are forever stuck in only half of us achieving success while the other half is stuck left to poverty.take away the entitlement acts like welfare and ssi and watch everyone pull themselves up.throw away the term minority because that is so outdated and wrong when we all are human italions and irish used to be minoritys now were grouped together , if im poor does that make me a minority?no? guess not because im native american and a few european cultures thrown in the mix. lol woman used to be the minoritys not so anymore sometimes i think the womans right movement hindered us rather then bring us up concernig our children now both parents work instead of teaching and caring for there children leaving it to others who dont give a rats ass because your children are not theres and look at the results aint pretty now is it?.

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