Kelley Williams-Bolar Leaves Jail but Public Outcry Escalates

Ed Meyer and Carol Biliczky, Akron Beacon Journal, January 26, 2011

On the day Kelley Williams-Bolar walked out of the Summit County Jail, public outrage over her local school residency case went viral on Internet blogs, Facebook, the vast audience of New York City radio and ABC national news.

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A jail official confirmed that Williams-Bolar, 40, was released about 10 a.m., after serving nine days of a 10-day sentence for improperly enrolling her children in Copley-Fairlawn schools.

Common Pleas Judge Patricia Cosgrove, who handled the four-day trial and sentencing, gave Williams-Bolar credit for one day of time served. It was derived from the day she was arrested and taken to jail on multiple felony charges in November 2009, court records show.

On Jan. 18, Williams-Bolar was sentenced to 10 days in jail after a jury convicted her of two felony counts of tampering with records. She also was given two years of probation and ordered to perform 80 hours of community service.

Those offenses involved several instances of signed or sworn school registration forms, applications for reduced or free school lunches and other official documents Williams-Bolar authorized when she enrolled her two daughters in Copley-Fairlawn schools in August 2006.

While the girls were registered as living with Williams-Bolar’s father in Copley Township within the Copley school district, prosecutors maintained they actually were living with her in Akron, in subsidized housing the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority provided.

At the time of trial earlier this month, school district officials testified that some 30 to 40 similar residency issues had arisen with other families during the two years at issue in Williams-Bolar’s case.

No one else faced criminal prosecution or civil court action, the school officials said.

Criticism on ABC website

By midafternoon Wednesday, a story on the ABC News website had drawn several hundred comments, many of them expressing fury about the single black mother’s treatment by the predominantly white Copley-Fairlawn school system.

“This is another new face of racism, bias and discrimination,” the commentator identified as wi11oh wrote. “How many drug dealers went free in Akron Ohio?”

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7,292 sign petition

A second Facebook petition seeking support for Williams-Bolar grew to 7,292 signatures in less than a day, petition leader Deborah Price of Washington, D.C., said.

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A Change.org web-based petition seeking to reduce William-Bolar’s sentence on appeal had collected almost 7,000 signatures by midafternoon.

“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,’ ” the petition read in part.

An article on the Daily Kos website said the case had clear racial overtones–and not in a good way.

“If Ms. Williams and her children had been white would the school have gone to this trouble to expose them as supposed ‘criminals?'” MKA 193 wrote under the headline Parenting While Black: Ohio Woman Jailed for ‘Stealing an Education.

“I think that any fair-minded observer would have to say ‘no.’ ”

Beacon Journal writers covering the case were the subjects of interviews on New York City radio station WBAI’s (99.5-FM) Wake Up Call on Wednesday.

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Meeting in Akron

In other developments in the case, Akron City Council President Marco Sommerville met with Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the issue of why the case could not have been resolved without the filing of felony charges.

No details of that meeting were provided.

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Dad faces Feb. 2 hearing

Williams, who faces tampering and theft charges in connection with attempts to obtain public assistance from the Summit County Department of Job and Family Services, has a Feb. 9 court hearing scheduled in his case.

[An earlier story on this case can be read here.]

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