What Would You Do For Your Kids?

Kelley Williams-Bolar, a 40-year-old Akron, Ohio, mom of two, was just released from jail after serving a ten day sentence for being convicted of a felony -- specifically, falsifying residency records. Now that she has served her jail sentence, she will be on probation for three years and must complete 80 hours of community service. Williams-Bolar falsified records to send her children to a school in a different district, and the outcome of this case has people on both sides of the fence very emotionally stirred up.

HandcuffsThe Background

From August 2006 to June 2008, Williams-Bolar's two children attended school at Copley-Fairlawn. Williams-Bolar and her children lived in subsidized housing that was provided by the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority in Akron, Ohio, outside of the Copley-Fairlawn district.

However, she registered her children for school at Copley-Fairlawn by claiming that they lived with their grandfather. Edward Williams lived in Coley Township, which placed him in the school district. Copley-Fairlawn school is a better and higher ranked school than the one in Williams-Bolar's district.

School officials discovered that the children did not live in the district and began sending Williams-Bolar bills each month for over $800. The district claims she ignored the bills. They hired a private investigator, who district officials state filmed Williams-Bolar dropping her children off at a bus stop near her father's house.

The crime...and punishment

In the end, the school district asserted that Williams-Bolar owed $30,500 in tuition and that she falsified records. Prosecutors charged Williams-Bolar with several felony counts of grand theft and tampering with records. The jury deliberated for over seven hours and eventually convicted her of two felony counts of tampering with records.

The judge in the case handed down the maximum sentence possible: Five years for each of the tampering convictions, to run concurrently. She then suspended the almost all of the sentence and ordered Williams-Bolar to serve ten days in jail as well as well as 80 hours of community service.

Greater implications

Williams-Bolar says that she is one semester away from graduating with her teaching degree. The felony convictions are quite impacting to her -- under Ohio law, her ability to receive her teacher's license has been threatened, at a minimum.

The judge in her case was quoted as saying, "'Because of the felony conviction, you will not be allowed to get your teaching degree under Ohio law as it stands today…The court's taking into consideration that is also a punishment that you will have to serve.''

Furthermore, Williams-Bolar is currently a teacher's assistant and her position is in jeopardy.

Hot topic

The Internet is abuzz with commentary criticizing the county for prosecuting Williams-Bolar with the felonies and the judge for handing down such a harsh sentence.

The judge in the case, Patricia Cosgrove, has since stated that prosecutors refused to reduce the charges to misdemeanors. In an interview, Cosgrove stated, "''The state would not move, would not budge, and offer Ms. Williams-Bolar to plead to a misdemeanor...Of course, I can't put a gun to anybody's head and force the state to offer a plea bargain.''

At the same time, plenty of people feel that Williams-Bolar received exactly what she deserved -- punishment for breaking the law.

Support for Williams-Bolar

Many people assert that the case is an issue of race and class. Dr. Boyce Watkins, a national speaker and Syracuse University professor, writes on his blog, "[I]t's interesting how courts find it convenient to make someone into an example when they happen to be poor and black. I'd love to see how they prosecute wealthy white women who commit the same offense. Oh, I forgot: Most wealthy white women don't have to send their kids to the schools located near the projects."

He further states, "This case is a textbook example of everything that remains racially wrong with America's educational, economic and criminal justice systems."

Others agree. "This is a perversion of 'justice'. America truly is the land of opportunity...only if you're rich of course," wrote a commenter on a Gawker article covering the issue.

A crime is a crime

Many people feel that Williams-Bolar committed a crime and received punishment for it. Beacon Journal columnist Bob Dyer says, "Williams-Bolar's bottom line was this: She wanted a better life for her kids. Any rational parent does. And most of us would go to great lengths to achieve that. In fact, if it came down to my children eating or starving, I would probably engage in armed robbery. But I wouldn't expect a judge to go easy on me if I did. You are not entitled to steal just because you want a better life for your children. Period."

What you said

His sentiments are echoed by scores of individuals. Another commenter on the Gawker article simply said, "Break the law, go to jail. I thought that's the way it always worked."

What do you think?

How do you feel about the charges that were brought against Williams-Bolar, the conviction and the sentence? Was it all warranted? Did the punishment fit the crime?

If you were in Williams-Bolar's position, would you do the same thing to send your kids to a better school?

Share your opinion in the comment section below.

Kelly Williams-Bolar interview

Check out this clip of Williams-Bolar, speaking to a reporter.

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Comments on "Kelley Williams-Bolar: Criminal, good mom... or both?"

bill williams February 08, 2011 | 11:40 AM

She could have easily moved in with her father, and everything would have been fine. But then she would not qualify for all the other government handouts she is getting (housing, food stamps, etc.). So, her only recourse is to lie and steal. If you want something that you cannot have, you should be allowed to lie and steal to get it.

Lawanna February 01, 2011 | 4:27 PM

Clearly she lacks ethics - she tried to circumvent the law not we the white people or we the black people - WE the people. Not only sis she lie, she falsified legal documents and posed as a soldier being deployed - all done as an act of deception. I wonder how many people would cry "foul" had someone broke into their home and stole their property because they need to pawn it to feed their children. Folks, there is no difference here. She broke the law and tried time and time again to lie and cover her tracks. Fact is, there were other families guilty of the same. White families, black families and asian families - all of which when confronted by the district rectified the situation. Williams Bolar refused to deal with the situation and gave the district no choice but to pursue this matter. The facts of this case have been lost or ignored. It's not about black or white. It's about one woman who KNOWINGLY broke the law - she has to pay. God knows, I hope this woman never gets a teaching license, she's not the type of role model I would want anywhere near my children.

Beverly February 01, 2011 | 7:58 AM

I will bet money all the negative comment came from white people. I pary for them and leave them in gods hands. Nothing has changed and it never will until we unite and stand up for our own. Have a beautiful day.

nanagwen January 31, 2011 | 3:34 PM

Where is the compassion in America. The punishment does not fit the crime. A felony. We forgot something here, the grandfather did live in the district paid taxes and got no benefit from the school since his child was grown. I don't she the major problem with him using the school for his grandkids. My children are grown now and I pay taxes for many things that I get not benefit for. We are in America and freedom has a price. Once price is to look out for our fellow neighbor and that does not mean just those close to us. I congratulate the mother and would and have done the same thing for my child. Who knows the contribution her children will make to this country. She has taught her children that some laws are unjust and we must stand up against them. On the other hand Copely is saying we don't care about others. In fact, we are going to make sure you can't pull yourself up by convicting you of a felony. Just another example of racial and economic discrimination.

Snarkasm January 31, 2011 | 10:49 AM

Wow, the comments from the people that have lived or have gone to Copley are harsh and rather unforgiving. It sounds to me as if those "select few" have been fed unhealthy doses of superiority complexes. When a parents heart actually works they will do anything for their children to receive a great education. If anything, she should not be going to jail. Incarcerating criminals doesn't work and costs us too much money. When someone acts out like that they are acting out, because they need help. They need someone to talk to. Having rehabilitation programs with counselors that specialize in several different fields could cut costs drastically. Granted those counselors must be payed very good living wage.

RShea59 January 30, 2011 | 9:43 PM

Methinks she got what she deserved. Her reasoning is flawed that her children is entitled to some free education regardless of residency requirements.

David McCauslin January 30, 2011 | 2:52 PM

Dr. Boyce Watkins should examine the facts before making inflamatory and racially devisive remarks about this case. Many white families were prosecuted by this school district for the same offense. They just acknowledged their wrongdoing and paid restitution, so were not pursued as Williams-Bolar was. You'll notice that even Williams-Bolar is not saying she didn't break the law...just that it is unfair she should be punished. Shame on everyone who is making this a racial matter...it's a simple breaking the law and being punished for it matter.

1219tracy January 28, 2011 | 1:43 PM

People that live in a certain district pay taxes for that school for their kids to go to that school. The schools receive money from the state based on how many students are in their school. By taking her kids out of the school they were suppose to be in, she robbed that school of money that should have gone to that school. Like it or not, tht is the way our school system is set up. You are assigned a school based on your address. You can't make up your own rules, because you think your kids should go to a better school. It's not fair to the people who pay the higher taxes for that school. She not only broke the rules, but so did her father. She should have moved in with him. Not everyone can go to the same school because you like it better. Why is the school her kids are suppose to go so bad? That's probably a different discussion. Maybe if she would have put all the effort into setting a good example for her kids instead of defrauding the school system, she wouldn't have to worry about what school they went to.

Random January 28, 2011 | 12:56 PM

Her home in Akron was paid for by a housing project, and her father (the Copley address she used) is also going to trial for forgery by filing for Medical and Food Stamp assistance with false information. There are so many ways to respectfully attain assistance from the government. When it is misused, it is a slap in the face to tax payers everywhere. The people of Copley-Fairlawn pay taxes for the people in their district. Do we all think it is OK to do things the "easy" way and let everyone else pay your way?

Nymom January 28, 2011 | 9:31 AM

One system for the rich, another for the poor. Go America. Way to build up the country. And, oh yeah, ruining her teaching career, that's a wonderful way to all pull together. It's hard enough being a single mother in this country. She wanted her kids to be safe. Go her. Boo the rich people in Copley.

kerry January 28, 2011 | 12:43 AM

Copley Grad- How fortunate you were. That is not the case for millions of American children. I understand your point but let's look at the bigger picture: Doesn't it cause you any alarm that a parent would be so discouraged by their school system that they would lie to send their kids elsewhere? Does it not alarm you that schools in our country are not equal for *every* child? That in order to get a decent public education you have to be somewhat privileged? It's wrong, it's unfair and it is shameful that our country continues not to be fazed that our system is failing a huge percentage of our citizens horribly. Based on your statement that this woman should 'just move', maybe you don't. My guess is that a single mother trying to finish school doesn't have the financial means- if she did, I'm sure she (and many other folks) would.

Megan January 27, 2011 | 10:54 PM

I kind of understand why she did that and feel sorry for her. But since she's in a teaching career and she's a mom of 2, I think that she has set a bad example of lying to get what she wants. Sending the kids to a better school give them a better chance to succeed but not definitely. The parents have an important role on molding the children and educating them what's right and wrong. I believe that she should be punished on what she did wrong but putting her in jail and spending all kind of money to go after her is a bit too much, especially that you know she's poor.

Coree January 27, 2011 | 10:13 PM

Just like I tell my kids: We all have consequences for our choices in life.

Terry January 27, 2011 | 9:42 PM

A modern day version of Les Mis with a new twist. In my opinion the sentence was a bit (understatement) harsh. What exactly did she steal, time in a classroom? While I do not condone, I cannot condemn. Without more information, felony charges do indeed appear rather extreme.

Copley grad January 27, 2011 | 6:09 PM

My parents currently pay over $12K/yr property taxes to live in Copley and have paid into that tax base for nearly 40 years. My siblings and I benefited from that tax money for our public education. Perhaps this individual feels entitled to the benefits of what my parents have and continue to pay? Want the education for your kids? Move to Copley or any other distric and pay. Lie, get caught and pay the penalty.

Cynthia Melanson January 27, 2011 | 5:49 PM

It's all such a load of crap! Don't we have more important things to worry about than a mom trying to get her kids better prepared to take over this country one day? Our government dollars at work again! Let's ruin her life and thus her kids lives because she loved them too much. STUPID!

kerry January 27, 2011 | 2:26 PM

The biggest punishment is that her teaching career is in jeopardy. In a country where the public school system is failing miserably- and has been for YEARS- I do not blame her for what she did one bit. Instead of labeling her a criminal, why not see this as (yet another) wake up call to fix the system. The fact that in order for children to receive a decent education in the United States parents have to resort to lying about where they live is unforgivable. Every school district in every city in the United States deserves the same resources.

mberry January 27, 2011 | 2:21 PM

She is a courageous parent and just the sort of person who should be a teacher, one who knows the importance of a good education and is willing to take risks to secure that for her kids.

mberry January 27, 2011 | 2:17 PM

She is a courageous parent and exactly the kind of woman who should be a teacher, one who knows exactly how important education is and is willing to take risks to secure that for her kids. I applaud her.

Tara January 27, 2011 | 2:12 PM

She committed a crime, but a felony conviction is overboard. This woman will now have that black mark on every job application she ever fills out, and will lose any educational federal student loans received. It's pretty easy to imagine a wealthy family divorcing - the kids go to mom, but want to finish out school in dad's district so they keep using their old address. That's just as deceitful in the eyes of the law. How come that type of case isn't on trial here? Why is it always some economically-disparaged person on parade? It seems like these cases are intended to bring in elements of social thought on welfare, race, etc.

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