Kelley Williams-Bolar is nearing the finish of her 10-day jail sentence, but the punishment meted out by an Ohio judge could last the rest of the 40-year-old mother’s life.
Williams-Bolar was convicted by a jury of two felony counts of tampering with court records after registering her two girls as living with her father — the girls’ grandfather — when they actually lived with her in the Akron housing projects. The grandfather, Edward L. Williams, also faces felony charges for knowingly allowing the girls, 12 and 16, to use his address on school registration forms and signed residency affidavits.
This case has sparked national outrage. An online advocacy group has organized a petition asking Ohio lawmakers and the office of sentencing Judge Patricia A. Cosgrove, to reduce the felonies on appeal.
Change.org launched a petition from its criminal justice channel. The petition calls Williams-Bolar’s conviction and sentence unfair and asks that her sentence be reduced upon appeal, which Williams-Bolar’s court-appointed attorney has said he and his client will pursue.
Ohio law prevents convicted felons from teaching. Williams-Bolar was a few credits short of getting her teaching degree. She worked as a teacher’s aide in a local school, a job she won’t be able to continue unless the felony conviction is overturned.
From the Change.org petition:
In addition to jail time, a fine and probation, Ms. Williams-Bolar’s felony conviction will prevent her from using the education she had been receiving in order to become a public school teacher. This sentence has all but ensured that the dire social and economic circumstances which drove Ms. Williams-Bolar to de-fraud the school system in the first place will never change. She has been robbed of the opportunity to elevate her life and the lives of her family through her own intelligence and hard work- the alleged “American Dream.” Judge Cosgrove has essentially handed Ms. Williams-Bolar a life sentence for attempting to protect and enrich her children in ways that her government and community have failed to do. Considering the overwhelming economic troubles affecting so many US citizens, loving, hard working single mothers like Williams-Bolar are not the enemy our court system should be making examples of in this way.
Administrators for the Copley-Fairlawn school district, where Williams-Bolar illegally sent her children, said dozens of out-of-district students had been found attending the stellar school, but only Williams-Bolar and her father were charged with a crime.
Williams-Bolar is black and poor. Plenty of observers in Akron, in Ohio and around the nation have called this further fallout of a history of racism in general and racial apartheid in American schools.