Monday, February 14, 2011

The Case of Kelly Williams-Bolar

Here's the strange case of a woman who actually did jail time for the crime of falsifying records so that her kids could attend a better public school. There's a decent article about it at the Huffington Post here. The embedded NPR interview is also worth listening to.

Kelly Williams-Bolar, of Akron, Ohio, used her father's home address to enroll her kids in a desirable school district, rather than her neighborhood district. As she explains in the NPR interview, her kids spend a great deal of time at their grandfather's house. And as many posters have pointed out, the grandfather has been paying property taxes that support his district's schools for years.

What a mess our public education system has become. There are so many issues here I scarcely know where to begin. I'll just hint at a few of them:

1.) Race. Kelly Williams-Bolar is black, and lives in a mostly black school district. The district she wanted to send her kids to is mostly white.

2.) Changing family structures. Kelly Williams-Bolar is a single (divorced) mother, and her children's father is hardly mentioned as part of this story. Clearly, her own father is more present to her kids than her ex-husband. It's doubtful that her children will be able to call on their father for help as adults, as Kelly W.-B. has done.

3.) Downward mobility. The grandfather is apparently in better financial shape than the single mother.

4.) What is public about public education? If kids are strictly segregated by race and income, with violators prosecuted, why do we call it "public"?

Readers? Your thoughts?


  1. PsychMom says:

    It is odd isn't it. Public schooling should be the same across the board no matter where you send your child. But that's not the case. It's not the case here in Halifax either..all school are not created equal. My preference would have been to send my child to public school....but when you drive by the neighbourhood school and it has graffiti all over the doors and walls, and there are signs posted about all the things that are forbidden, and the school itself is not welcoming or even really a part of the community...why would I choose this for my child?

    I think if I were in this lady's shoes, I would have done the exact same thing.

  2. I'm sympathetic to her motivation, I'm not sure I can get behind lying though. If she thought of her dad as a parent to the extent that the girls were staying at the grandfather's house more than her own, were the girls dependents on the dad's tax returns...somehow I doubt it.

    I'm not sure I can get behind the property tax argument. From a logistical standpoint, I think it is fair to assign attendance areas based on where people live. The area I grew up in I could have attended a number of public school districts, some in our neighboring state. If everyone claimed they had a relative that paid property taxes in the seemingly most desirable school district, it would be a logistical nightmare.

    Did the woman ever give her home school district a chance initially....get involved as a volunteer?

  3. If the schools are really bad, a few parent volunteers won't be enough to fix it. I have very mixed feelings about the volunteer phenomenon anyway -- I'll save it for a post.

    If you were able to attend a number of schools, you were in a very different system than the one Kelly W.-B. contended with. As the prosecutor said, "We're not an open-enrollment district." She had no choice about where to send her kids, unless she claimed residency somewhere else.

    Where I live, it's the same -- we're zoned for one public elementary school, which feeds into one middle school. There's a choice between two high schools, but that's it for choice.

  4. Was the school she sent the kids to in the same district as the one she was a resident in? I'd assumed from the articles I'd read that they were different districts.

    I don't see what the point is about her Dad having paid taxes in another district. Taxes are not the purchases of services, but the strong arm of the law extracting money from people.Homeless residents living in a van, paying no taxes, are eligible to go to school in the district they reside in. (Though sometimes it will take a lawyer working pro-bono to make the district see reason in those cases.) People who never have kids can not get a refund on their taxes that pay for school. Her Dad was not purchasing school services that he could transfer, he was paying taxes.

    That said, public school and how it is paid for is all messed up in most (all?) states of the USA.

  5. post was unclear...I meant from a geographical standpoint, growing up, I could have easily attended schools in several districts, from a legal stanpoint I could not have.

    My point of view has always been that you go to the school that is in your attendance area, in most cases.

    I agree with anonymous who says that paying property taxes does not equate to the purchase of services. Even so, the amount of the property taxes that goes to the schools from one particular taxpayer doesn't cover the actual cost of educating those children, as some might be implying.

    I think the penalty was too harsh.

    I wasn't clear if Ms. Williams-Bolar had done much research on her decision, or if it was more based on emotions? It sounded like in the interview she wanted to have it both ways...ultimately have her own residence away from her dad, but also be able to send her kids to school in a district that did not officially reside in.

  6. I can see KD's point. I don't see how you could run any school system without putting some limitations on who could attend its schools. On the other hand, it is true that, in many places, city and district boundaries effectively serve to confine people with less money to school environments that are inferior. But to say that that should change is not to say that anyone should be able to attend any school.

    Without knowing more, though, it sure seems like the penalty was grossly disproportionate to the "crime."

  7. There's so much going on here, I'm afraid to write a comment for fear of using up my material! I'll respond in subsequent posts.

  8. I feel bad for this woman but what she did is wrong. We had a problem in our town with people from other districts saying they live at an address in our town so the kids can attend our schools. The crazy thing is that the rental properties here are not much more expensive than in the city across the river where these kids were coming from. People move to our town specifically for the school system all the time, including low income families. Different towns and states are like different flavors of ice cream. If you don't like what is happening where you live, you can find a way to move. Maybe Kelly Williams-Boler should have moved in with her father. Another point is that no one forces anyone to have children. If you can't provide the resources and conditions that you feel are suitable for raising children, you don't have to have them. I don't really see how race plays a part here.

  9. I don't believe for a moment that a white woman would have done jail time for this offense. That's how race comes into it for me.

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  10. She did not do this for the schools. She did this because she needed after school care for her kids. Listen to her taped conversations with her family. Her mother specifically said that this was not about the schools. Kelley Williams bolar lied on her drivers license about her addess, on her voters registration card, on her kids school registration forms and the grandparent afidavit. All of these forms specifically said it was a felony to lie on them.

    She claimed this was for her kids safety. But she never moved her girls out of the home that she claimed was so dangerous and moved them to her fathers home. That makes no sense. If you are so concerned for your children's safety, wouldn't you move out of the dangerous place? If she had she would have lost her subsidized rent. Her father is also on trial for defrauding the government for disability. If she moved in with him, he probably would have lost some of his subsidies also.

    She stayed at her low rent home when she said she could have lived with her father. I have no respect for a mother who stays in a home she does not need and keeps another family out a home they could use. The waiting list for subdized low income housing is very long. Someone went without while she lived it up in two homes.

  11. Anonymous, can you give a source for your claims? I haven't seen any of this reported.


    This is from an Akron newspaper, has quite a few stories about the case...seems complicated.

    My take is that perhaps initially she didn't realize that what she was doing was wrong, but later on down the line she had the chance to take her kids out of the school to avoid the legal issues that came to pass.

    What I found interesting is that students from the Copley Fairlawn district can and do open enroll into the Akron district, but the reverse is not permitted.

  13. Fed up mom,

    Goto or Look for the article called for Williams bolar for the record. You will see all the facts for the case. There are Many articles on the case.

  14. Kd,

    She knew she was doing wrong. She didn't care. Her family has a long and storied history of suing people. Listen to her jail conversations. She even talks about things getting ready to change. She expects to get on Oprah and has no problem putting her two girls on good morning America. What kind of mother would parade their children out on national tv without a care in the world except that they would need their hair done? Her kids deserve privacy. Not notoriety.

  15. Uumm....Kate Gosselin, that other couple with 19 kids, most of the housewife shows (which show the kids), Sarah Palin (it's a long list).

  16. Exactly. Only money hungry selfish idiots force their kids to be on tv.

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