Akron school case provides education for the nation
A mother’s jail term discussed
“When my house got broken into, I felt it was my duty to do something else.”
That statement to ABC News by Kelley Williams-Bolar, 40, a single mother of two school-age daughters, 12 and 16, threw her world, the city of Akron, Ohio, and many of the nation’s school districts into a dither.
That “something else” she chose to do was to take her girls from the Akron School District and register them in another district, using her father’s address. Edward Williams, Williams-Bolar’s father, lives a little more than a mile from her in Copley Township within the Copley-Fairlawn School District. When the Copley-Fairlawn officials learned in 2007 that the girls did not reside in the district, events were set in motion that culminated in the arrest of Williams-Bolar a year and a half later.
According to the Akron Beacon Journal, Williams-Bolar is accused of lying about her address and falsifying records. The Copley-Fairlawn District holds that because of Williams-Bolar’s lies, it lost $30,000 in tuition costs for the period between August 2006 and June 2008 when her daughters attended district schools. Spokespersons said the district accrued $6,000 in costs for hiring a private investigator. Williams-Bolar was indicted and convicted of falsifying residency records when she refused to pay the tuition. Charges of grand theft and tampering with records—both felonies—were pursued against her father Edward Williams. (However, the grand theft charges have since been dropped, according to reports.)
Common Pleas Judge Patricia A. Cosgrove then sentenced Williams-Bolar to five years in prison on tampering charges. All but 10 days were suspended, which Williams-Bolar was to serve in county jail. She was also given two year’s probation and 80 hours of community service. Williams-Bolar was released from jail one day early on Jan. 18, 2011.
Copley-Fairlawn does not allow open enrollment. If a student from outside the district is permitted to attend one of its schools, an out-of-district tuition of $800 per month is charged to the parents or guardians. Apparently, Williams-Bolar skirted these charges.
Most of the outrage expressed by the public centers around a single contention: Williams-Bolar, who is African American, was charged with a felony simply for sending her daughters to a better school.
In a statement Ohio Gov. John Kasich said, “Our laws exist for a reason and they must be enforced, but the idea that a woman would become a convicted felon for wanting a better future for her children is something that has rightly raised a lot of concern with people, including me.”
By refusing to back down when threatened by school district officials, Williams-Bolar may have become the impetus for a serious review of the nation’s public school policies. Kevin Huffman, opinion writer for the Washington Post, calls the case “a Rosa Parks moment for education.”
Locally, during an interview on the “Sunday Morning Live” show on Blog Talk Radio, an attorney, Terrye Cheatham, was “outraged” over the case. When asked if she thought such a thing could happen in California or in Los Angeles, she replied, “I don’t think the D.A.’s office would prosecute it.” She said that she had never heard of a parent being prosecuted for enrolling a child in a district in which they did not live.” What if she had a son “who happened to be 6-6 and could dunk a basketball? Do you think we’d be having this conversation right now?” Cheatham asked.
But there are accusations that the media are not disclosing the full story. Edward L. Esposito, editor of AkronNewsNow.com, takes on the media for their oversight. He wonders why Williams-Bolar’s repeated lies to the district are not being reported. He questions whether Williams-Bolar is “fit to teach Akron’s children” if she willfully broke the law. Williams-Bolar worked as a special education teacher’s aide at Buchtel High School in the Akron School District. She attended Akron University in the evenings, working toward getting her teaching credentials. She is currently only 12 credits away from her goal.
The article also mentions that school lunches were “approved by Copley-Fairlawn based on false income statements.” She was granted subsidized housing by the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority while “switching her drivers license, registering to vote, and attesting to residence” in Copley-Fairlawn. In view of these and other reporting lapses, Esposito says, “Wrong after wrong after wrong shouldn’t make a right.”
Where Kelley Williams-Bolar did go wrong is having her father file a “power of attorney” in Summit County Juvenile Court. By doing so, the case was moved from the state superintendent’s purview into the jurisdiction of the courts. Akron Beacon Journal staff writer John Higgins explained how filing the document led to a series of events resulting in the present situation.
Ironically, the incident had been resolved when the document was received, according to Copley-Fairlawn lawyer John Britton. But because of the nature of the document, and the inconsistencies that continued to be brought to the attention of the school district, scrutiny increased in the case.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—The head of National Lampoon Inc. was arrested today in West Hollywood in an alleged Ponzi scheme involving about $200 million.
Timothy Durham, 48, the chief executive of the longstanding comedy franchise, which was behind movies like "Animal House'' and the "Vacation'' series.
He was indicted by a federal grand jury indictment on charges of defrauding investors through his loan company and using the money for himself, yachting and traveling on private jets, the Los Angeles Times reported.
LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Disgraced football legend O.J. Simpson was in a Las Vegas courtroom Monday in a bid to get his robbery, assault and kidnapping convictions thrown out.
Dressed in a blue prison uniform, the Heisman Trophy winner and former Buffalo Bills star halfback appeared to have grayed some during his four years of incarceration.
Ariel Castro maintained his home as a prison for three young women, holding them in seclusion and sexually assaulting them for his own pleasure, a Cuyahoga County, Ohio, prosecutor told a judge Thursday.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Brian Murphy told the judge “the charges against Mr. Castro are based on premeditated, deliberate and depraved decisions to snatch three young ladies from Cleveland’s Westside streets to be used in whatever self-gratifying, self-serving way he saw fit.”
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Ropes and chains have been found inside the Cleveland home where police say three women spent close to a decade in captivity, city officials said Wednesday.
While Public Safety Director Martin Flask said investigators haven’t confirmed how the ropes and chains were used, police Chief Michael McGrath told NBC’s “Today” that they were used to restrain the missing women.
“We have confirmation that they were bound,” he told NBC.
When the judge’s gavel fell, the future had been decided for the two teenagers convicted of rape in Steubenville, Ohio.
Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, will spend at least a year in a juvenile correctional facility, although authorities could decide to keep them in custody until they turn 21. Both must undergo treatment and will have to register as sex offenders.
For the 16-year-old victim, the next steps aren’t so clear.