A little over a year ago, Ohio mom Kelly Williams-Bolar was serving nine days of a 10-day jail sentence for sending her kids to the wrong school. For two years, Williams-Bolar had been enrolling her daughters, then 13 and 9, in the highly rated school district where her father lived, rather than the low-performing schools in the unsafe neighborhood where she lived. After an investigation that involved private detectives, Williams-Bolar was charged with and convicted of falsifying documents with the wrong address.
Eventually, Ohio’s Gov. John Kasich reduced her felony convictions to misdemeanors and Williams-Bolar has been able to continue her work as a teacher’s aide for special needs students. But the experience changed the mother.
Where is Williams-Bolar today?
A Colorlines story, republished on Salon, explains how this single mother became a reluctant activist in school reform. She’s now an invited speaker at rallies and conferences on education reform, even though it can make her unpopular at work.
What this situation as made apparent to Williams-Bolar is that she’s not the only parent to have been treated as a criminal for crossing school boundaries. And that others who have been fined and charged? They look a lot like her — poor and black. Another less publicized Ohio case involved a family who broke the rules and sent their kids to better schools. But here’s how Colorlines/Salon reports these particular circumstances:
Take the case of Mark Ebner, a Columbus, Ohio, parent who illegally enrolled his children in a neighboring suburban school district. Williams-Bolar’s attorney, Singleton, considers the case illustrative. The Ebner family’s primary residence was a $1 million property just outside the suburban district’s borders. When Ebner found out that private investigators were tailing him, the Columbus Dispatch reported, he arranged for a house swap with relatives inside the district—and then sued the district for spying on him. The same year that Williams-Bolar and her daughters were swallowed up by her court case, the Ebners were handily defeating the rules.
As for Williams-Bolar, her girls attend schools that she is happy with — one of which is a private school that a state voucher program enables her to afford.
But are vouchers really the answer? What about all those kids at the lower performing schools in Akron, the one that Williams-Bolar wanted to avoid? And how about the school that went to such extremes to protect it’s fortress of excellence from outsiders?