I’m Playing the Race Card on this One. You Should Too.

Ohio mom, hours from her teaching credential, prosecuted for sneaking kids into better school.

Original story: Ohio.com and ABCNews

You can’t throw a wadded $100 bill in this country without hitting a lavishly paid corporate pickpocket, and who is it that is getting cuffed and vilified these days? Folks like Kelley Williams-Bolar, an Ohio mother who falsified registration forms to send her kids to a better school. In official parlance, we’ve reached Level You’ve Got To Be Kidding.

I’m not sure when we’re going to be able to turn around and not find another new low, but the more I learn about this story the more ethically underhanded it seems, from the jailing of a mom with a clean record for improperly enrolling her daughters in a school outside their tax zone to the wide-eyed, evangelical fervor of Prosecuting Attorney Michael Cody, shown in courtroom footage shouting at jurors, “Why oh why oh why would you believe a WORD she told you on the stand?” Now, a scant 12 curriculum hours away from earning her own teaching credential, Williams-Bolar faces three years probation and – you guessed it – the likely loss of her future teaching career as a result of her conviction…just when the President’s State of the Union address contained some of best discourse on education in years.

“And so the question is whether all of us — as citizens, and as parents — are willing to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed. That responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities. It’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done. We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but also the winner of the science fair.”

Williams-Bolar, a single mother living in government housing in Akron Ohio, might define those very words. Yes fine, she broke the law, if that’s what you need to hold onto (and if it is, Monty Burns called: he wants his charisma back); “convicted felon” (happy?) Kelley Williams-Bolar used her father’s address to register her two daughters in the academically higher rated Copley-Fairlawn school district. And optimistically, in so doing, she was trying to “instill the love of learning” in her children by challenging them academically. She was living the willingness “to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.” To make things better for her family, she got crafty.

She did so because the neighborhood she can afford to live in sucks; because her and her daughter’s residence had been burglarized the year before; because Copley-Fairlawn’s hazing and bullying policies are the envy of other districts lacking the money to enact and enforce them. For solid, sensible reasons, Kelley Williams-Bolar pursued dual residency for her kids – and broke the law with that same sense of duty, making no excuses before the court. That’s what I like most about her: despite the consequences of her actions being more than they should be, she is owning, not denying, them.

“Let’s also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as ‘nation builders.’ Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect.”

Hear hear! A boost for teachers in the appreciation department, and shouldn’t that extend to dedicated teacher-candidates too? Apparently not in Summit County, or maybe just not if you’re black and trying to sit in the white lunchroom there. The sentencing judge (a name I refuse to even type), after informing Williams-Bolar she would no longer be able to obtain her teaching credential in her home state, blithely told her, ”The court is taking into consideration that is also a punishment that you will have to serve.” Then she said publicly, before trying to deflect blame onto the prosecutor for refusing to drop the charges to a misdemeanor, “I felt that some punishment or deterrent was needed for other individuals who might think to defraud the various school districts.”

Some punishment? Let me get this straight: you can snort blow, party it up, ruin some companies, and become the President, but sign the wrong paper the wrong way and your life is over? And if you think I’m exaggerating, not only did Williams-Bolar lose her job prospects, she was welcomed home this week from nine days in jail with a letter from the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority informing her that she may be subject to fines and prosecution on their end, seeing as how there’s some question about where her daughters live. Now that’s justice.

“In fact, to every young person listening tonight who’s contemplating their career choice: If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child — become a teacher. Your country needs you.”

Needs you for what, to help inflict the status quo?  Needs to you to help keep your people in line?  In this case, Williams-Bolar’s country needed her – not one of the 30 or 40 other Summit County parents involved in similar disputes with the district – to be the above-mentioned example, so the judge used official means to professionally hobble her and keep her low-income daughters trapped in under-performing schools. So like I said, I’m playing the race card on this one. For a judge as involved in prisoner re-entry programs as this one apparently is, the conspicuously harsh sentence reeks of, “We want you to reach for the brass ring…just not the one on our kids’ playground.”

By the way, for those of you tempted to use the tired argument that the property taxes you pay for your expensive houses should be reserved for your kids, I have only one question: what about the childless folks in your neighborhood who pay the same property taxes – who gets their money? Oh, that should go to your kids too? That’s horseshit.

There is a petition to Ohio Governor John Kasich on Williams-Bolar’s behalf, which is at least something that helps bring us back a step or two from complete moral ineptitude. But we have a long way to go before we eliminate the unfair distribution of limited educational resources and the unsafe conditions in too many of our public schools, not to mention what it will take to truly shed racial and judicial imbalance in America. That’s going to mean a lot more love for our neighbors – and not just the ones that look like us.