Posted on January 26, 2011

Kelly Williams-Bolar: Mother Jailed for Sending Kids to the Wrong School District

Boyce Watkins, PhD, Black Voices, January 25, 2011

When I read about the case of Kelly Williams-Bolar, I find myself confused. The 40-year-old Ohio mother of two is being sent to jail for using her father’s address to send her two daughters to a school in a better district. Williams-Bolar lives in a housing project in Akron, Ohio, and had sent her children to school in Copley Township using her father’s address.

Williams-Bolar’s father, Edward Williams, is also being charged with fourth-degree grand theft for stealing more than $30,000 in school services for the two girls. Williams-Bolar herself will spend 10 days in jail and be placed on probation. Also, the judge in the case, Patricia Cosgrove, made it clear that she was using Williams-Bolar to set an example for other parents who consider doing the same thing. {snip}

Besides being a single mom, Williams-Bolar was going to school part time in the hope of getting a job as a teacher. The judge noted that because Williams-Bolar has been convicted of a felony, she will no longer be allowed to teach in the state of Ohio. {snip}

The Kelly Williams-Bolar case strikes a chord with quite a few people in the black community for a few reasons. Most directly, a lot of kids can remember their own mothers doing the same thing to try to break the cycle of poverty that so many of us confront as children. Inner-city schools are inadequately funded, so many parents have no choice when it comes to finding ways to get their kids a good education. {snip}

{snip} The idea that citizens are now being put in jail for attempting to access educational equality is nothing short of being Jim Crow-like in nature.

Black family economic inequality also plays a huge role in this case. It’s hard to imagine that the judge would have been compelled to make an example out of Williams-Bolar were she not a poor single mother from the projects. If she were a wealthy woman from the suburbs, she would have been able to afford the kinds of attorneys that keep people out of jail, and she also would not have been forced to break the law to help her girls get access to a good school. {snip}

Dr. Martin Luther King reminded us many years ago that a moral man or woman has the right to violate unjust laws. Williams-Bolar’s decision to break the law of educational apartheid to give her daughters a better future is no different from those who broke the law to teach slaves how to read. {snip}