I am Kelley Williams-Bolar. I am a concerned mother who will do what it takes to keep my children safe and in the best educational environment I can put them in.
I am Kelley Williams-Bolar. I will fight for my and my children’s rights for equal opportunity and equal access.
I am Kelley Williams-Bolar. I, too, am working (hard) for the betterment of my family’s socio-economic advancement and stability.
Kelley Williams-Bolar is the Akron, Ohio mother who used her father’s address to get her kids into a better school in the suburbs. For this she was convicted of a felony for defrauding the school district and was sentenced to 10 days in jail, three years of probation and 80 hours of community service.
Actually, I cannot claim Ms. Williams-Bolar’s name in an effort to stand in solidarity with her. Fortunately for me, I do not live in public-subsidized housing. I have not had to falsify my kids school records (as countless people are compelled to do) to get them in “the right” schools. And I have a spouse who provides the larger part of our family income. I’d like to think that I could stand up and fight for injustice, as Ms. Williams-Bolar did, for my family. But all I can do is symbolically stand by someone who did and express my disdain for a system so steeped in privilege as to jail yet another undeserving person.
Only a privileged judge can look a struggling mother in the eye and detrimentally alter her already difficult life by making her an example. Only a privileged judge can single out a single mother among the other families that took the same action as she—a single mother who had the gumption to make hard decisions and sacrifices, and the gumption to stand up and fight for them– and treat her as someone who deserved to spend time in jail… who deserved to be thrown away. As this devoted mother was being led away in handcuffs, pleading on behalf of her children who had never started a day without her, this judge was unmoved. The blinders of privilege permit that. Never mind that Williams-Bolar was only units away from attaining her credentials toward a teaching career that is now foreclosed due to the felony conviction.
When I heard that Ms. Williams-Bolar was being tried as a felon for lying about her residency so that her daughters could attend a school in the district in which her father lived, I imagined that her children would then be handed over to her father, who could then legitimately enroll them in the coveted school in question. How ironic that would be. And I thought about the claim that families who lie their way into the school district cheat the district’s taxpayers since those families are not making a contribution there. I wondered how much of the taxpayers money had been squandered on these two outsiders, these children…some of it their grandfather’s tax money, I imagine. I wondered how many of the wealthy residents of that district falsify and manipulate their tax forms to avoid such taxes. I thought how ironic that is, too.
I am devastated for Ms. Williams-Bolar and her family. I feel the need to apologize to her for our collective hypocrisy and our propensity to only accept certain lies from certain people. (See the Piano-in-the-bay story and how leniency for felonies is dispensed in Florida ) Lying is a privilege Ms. Williams-Bolar now knows she does not have. There’s that word “privilege”, again. I use this word in place of the word “racism” because I believe this is a case of the haves vs. the have nots. This is an economic disparity issue. And since so many people of color are poor, economic disparity often masquerades as racism. Unfortunately, they look and feel the same. Ms. Williams-Bolar was reminded that she and her family did not belong at that more affluent school. And she was reminded that she and her family were not welcome. She did what so many folks do—she lied to get what she wanted for her kids. And for that, she was treated more harshly. She ended up where so many brown folks end up– in jail. But those folks in jail with her are also mostly poor, too.
It’s so hard to unravel racism from classism and it may not be worth the effort– not for folks like Kelley Williams-Bolar. The results are the same– disrespect, disparate treatment and disenfranchisement.
However you feel about honesty and taxes, you have to acknowledge that Ms. Williams-Bolar was treated wrongly. I am not asserting that Ms. Williams-Bolar is a heroine– just that her punishment far outweighed her crime. For this, I stand with her as a mother who cares foremost about her children’s welfare. And I support the efforts to rectify this injustice.
Click HERE for Three Ways You Can Help Kelley Williams-Bolar!
Side note: After publishing this post, I noticed that I misspelled “lion’s share” as “loin-share,” when explaining that my husband provides the lion’s share of our family income. I’m thinking this was a Freudian slip that rightly acknowledges the degree to which a husband can more easily earn the lion’s-share of the family income since men historically earn more than women for the same job! Then I decided lion’s share was not a good metaphor for earnings but was more appropriately used for consuming, and I took it out altogether! This has nothing to do with this story other than to rationalize my poor proofreading and tangentially to point out the inherent difficulties a single mother faces to provide for her family alone.
UPDATE: September 7, 2011– Governor Reduces Charges to Misdemeanor
According to the Associated Press, Gov. John Kasich reduced the charges against Kelley Williams-Bolar. She served her nine days in jail for felony charges, but the parole board declined to recommend a reduction in her sentencing. According to Change.org, support for Williams-Bloar went viral in one of their most popular of efforts to date. Change.org was also joined by ColorOfChange.org, in petitioning the governor’s office on behalf of Williams-Bolar.