Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Kelley Williams Bolar Case

I usually don't use this forum to disagree with my friends at the Akron Beacon Journal, but their editorial slamming the prosecution of Kelley Williams-Bolar -- the "School Mom" case now attracting national attention -- is just about as wrong-headed as I've seen from the editorial brain trust on Exchange and Main.

The reporting from the national media has been far worse.

Sunday's editorial was over-the-top, calling to question the prosecution of Williams-Bolar for the crime of wanting better for her daughters. It paints her as a victim of an uncaring system. It tries to frame what is now a national debate on the mom who's being persecuted for simply wanting better for her children.

Problem is, that's not what Williams-Bolar was indicted for. It's not what she was prosecuted for. It's not what she was convicted of by a jury of her peers. It's not what she did time for. It's not what she will serve probation for.

It's time for her defenders to address the most basic of lessons parents instill in their children at an early age: two wrongs don't make a right.

In this case, it's way more than two wrongs.
  • Williams-Bolar repeatedly ignored attempts, over a period of years, by the Copley-Fairlawn School District to resolve the residency issue. Other parents caught in the same net took responsibility and either proved residency, pulled their children from the District or acted like adults and paid the tab;
  • Williams-Bolar compounded by her own sworn statements that her daughters lived in the district by claiming full residence for her daughters on free school lunch programs, even to the point of misrepresenting her own income on the entry forms in addition to residency;
  • Williams-Bolar not only attested to the residency issue on Copley-Fairlawn enrollment forms and the school lunch program, she also attested to the residency of her daughters in Akron, not Copley Township, when she applied for and received a three-bedroom Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority subsidized home;
  • Williams-Bolar may have misrepresented her residency when taking part in the most basic of democratic institutions: voting;
  • Williams-Bolar was caught on video tape gaming the system by dropping off and picking up her children so a Copley-Fairlawn bus could pick them up each morning, just not from the AMHA home the family inhabited in Akron. Even with the claim of safety for her children, the fact remains her daughters still lived in the home Williams-Bolar now says was unsafe;
  • Williams-Bolar admitted to investigators from Copley-Fairlawn and AMHA that she misrepresented herself verbally and in writing;
  • Williams-Bolar and her family submitted documents the Summit County Juvenile Court system later found were not true;
  • At one point, Williams-Bolar even sent one of the school district's letters back with a handwritten note insinuating that the addressee was serving overseas, a despicable misrepresentation that should outrage any member of the military and their family truly deployed in service to this nation.
Williams-Bolar stands accused of "misrepresenting" herself to a school district, the Juvenile Court, AMHA and the Summit County Board of Elections. The newspaper editorializes of the "great injustice" suffered by Williams-Bolar, as though she played no role in the willful misrepresentation of her personal financial situation, her residence, even her status as an Akron school employee as this case moved through the system.

The injustice is letting her get away with it.

Over a hundred parents in the similar circumstances acted like adults, made their appeals, argued their residency or took responsibility and resolved the situation with Copley-Fairlawn schools.

That Williams-Bolar is the only parent who refused to act responsibly is not an example of uneven justice as the Beacon Journal, her family, and supporters suggest. It truly shows the remarkable lengths the systems we have in place to protect the public went to help her avoid her fate. Time and time again the school district reached out to resolve the issues, even to the point of offering to work with her on the money she rightfully owed the district. Time and time again she had the opportunity to speak and attest truthfully, only to "misrepresent" her situation again and again.

When taxpayers rightfully want those gaming the system punished, it's easy to not see the face of those who take from all of us through fraud and abuse. It's easy to take the stand that a mother's love should be all that matters, and her heart was in the right place even though her wallet was clearly all over the place.

But if we are to be honest about protecting the public, that means calling out those who would take advantage of systems established to benefit all of us for their own personal use. "Misrepresent" is a nicer word than what the jury of her peers clearly felt Williams-Bolar was guilty of, after taking into account the entire breadth of this case and not just the headline treatment or the heart-tugging editorial stance that apparently ignores those lessons that should anchor this story: two wrongs, three wrongs, four wrongs -- many wrongs -- still do not make a right.

Williams-Bolar is fortunate she found in Judge Patricia Cosgrove someone who had compassion for her circumstances while recognizing the gravity of her crimes...and these are crimes. These actions cost two school districts:Â Copley-Fairlawn in providing services unfairly secured and Akron, which lost state funds that would have come to the district with enrollment. This is income the very school district which now employs Williams-Bolar, who awaits determination on whether the choices she made will cost her not only a week and a half in jail and years on probation but her job and employment future.

Judge Cosgrove correctly notes Williams-Bolar should not pay a career death penalty for these charges, and I think most reasonable people would agree. But this is a story of choices Williams-Bolar made, and her decision to try and continue standing on a house of cards built on misrepresentation after misrepresentation.

This case should give no one cause for celebration. Two children have had their education disrupted because of the decisions made by adults; a mother sat in jail and will be on probation for the next two years; the people who pay the taxes in two school districts lose because those decisions took money away from other children or programs; the prosecutor's office is slammed for "excess" when in point of fact the excess was on the part of Williams-Bolar from day one; a jury of citizens had to decide whether one of their neighbors would be branded as a criminal; a judge was forced to send a mother of two to jail.

It's not easy calling someone a crook, especially when what they did seems for such a good reason. But lying to government agency after government agency after government agency is what makes this a criminal case, not the desire to see better for the children.

If this was a case of insurance scammers ripping off Medicaid, taxpayers would be outraged if a penny of public money went to subsidize such behavior. Why is motherhood a positive defense in the People v Kelley Williams-Bolar?

All for the decisions Williams-Bolar made that the rules didn't apply to her. Is this the lesson you would want to teach your kids? Are you teaching them the end always justifies the means?


  1. hmmm, I bet she doesn't have thousands of dollars in student loans for that education she is receiving at UofA.

  2. This story reminds me of the story of Esther. She lied to protect her people. She broke the law of the land to protect the lives of her people. Now don't judge Esther too hard. She did not ask to be put in the place to have to do those things...I am sure it was likely very hard being that she was not the deceiving kind. But there it the end...she did what she had to for those that she loved.

  3. colleen needs to pass that crackpipe to Kelley Williams-Bolar

  4. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you ... for presenting the facts of this case as they are. I have stopped reading the articles, editorials and "news" on this case in the Akron Beacon Journal because, quite frankly, it reads like one of those "news rags" at the grocery store checkout. Ms. Williams-Bolar committed a criminal act, and for that, she must pay. Maybe next time she'll stop and think before she tries to circumvent the law. Hopefully, this case speaks loudly to others considering doing the same. If you want to play be prepared to pay.

  5. Thank you for an educated commentary on this story. As a resident of Copley it has insulted me because my husband and I work very hard to be able to afford to live in the township. Your comment about her claiming to be serving overseas is the last straw for me because my husband is currently serving a one year deployment in Afghanistan. His decision to make the National Guard his career was based soley on our desire to be able to purchase our home in Copley. At the time he joined full time (11 years ago) he was working for an excavating company digging sewer lines. And I was working full time. We were barely scrapping by and living in the Akron Public School district. My son, who was in kindergarten, was being threatened and was afraid to go to school every day. We enrolled him in private school at a cost of $6500 a year until we could find a way to buy a house in the Copley school system. It was at that time that my husband decided the only way to make that happen was to sign up for full time service - he had always been in the Reserves until then.

    So I feel like this story is extremely personal to me and I sincerely appreciate your informed comments. It is very difficult for me to watch the national media reports and know that they are only reporting the headline grabbing portion. And I can't believe how many people have jumped on to support her when they have not taken the time to read the facts and educate themselves that perhaps there is more to the story.

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! Can this be the headline story tomorrow on the Beacon?? After 25 years of being a subscriber, I am cancelling my subscription because of the one-sided, NOT news reporting bias. Even People Magazine found this story not worthy of their pages! How sad that when Akron had an opportunity to be the paper of record on this, it took the low road - played the race card for her and has made her out to be a hero!!! What kind of message does that send to our children??? Very, very sad and depressing that this story is consuming the public when we have much better things to focus our attention on.

  7. Ed, thank you for taking a stand on the poor journalism provided by the ABJ and bringing the facts to light. I have shared this link, as have many of my friends, on Facebook in the hopes of helping others understand what is going on.

  8. Q&A
    Would anyone even care if she were white?
    What was keeping her from moving to Copley. There are section 8 homes and apartments there.
    Was her dad's home a group home?
    Why was the jury so biased in supporting the law?
    How much is she being paid to be a victim dupe?
    Sorry, I do not have the answers.

  9. Thank you, Ed! A thousand thank yous! I watched in awe yesterday as the women on The Talk discussed this, and were saying what an outrage this was...and then the uninformed Sharon Osbourne stated as fact that we're ignoring the important fact that this mother pays taxes to one school district and sends her kids to another, so what's the big deal? And how many people are watching this, and accepting this sort of discourse as fact and incorporating it into their "knowledge" of the situation? It's really frustrating at this point. Long story short...good work. I'll be sharing this!

  10. She and her father are professional "scammers".

  11. Yeah she broke some laws, but who's breaking the law when the school systems are so unequally yoked and the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled over a decade ago that funding in the school systems are UNCONSTITUTIONAL? Someone please answer that.

  12. Just wondering how many years this lady will have to be paying back her student loans, ha ha. My niece will be working for about ten years to get hers paid back!

    As a Copley resident for nearly fifty years, I have watched my property taxes rise and rise. I am now paying over $6,000.00 per year. A good portion of this goes to the school system. I do not, nor have not had children in the schools for many, many years. I resent having to pay for Akron children to attend our schools, while not paying a dime for it.

  13. If this military scam is true, I hope someone calls her out on it on Saturday night's Fox News' Judge Perrine's show (9PM) featuring this case!

  14. Correction: Judge Pirro, (not Perrine).

  15. Dear America,

    It's sad that the educational systems in this country are so stratified within communities, where people feel forced to "jump the fence" in order to seek decent educations for their children. The root of the problem here is racism, and this case is a clear example of tax dollars being spent unfairly to fund schools in affluent (read "white") communities, while the black kids in the projects are doomed to dimmer futures resulting from inadequate educations from day one through high school.

    As a nation we need to do more to ensure that ALL children are offered a better education and stop allowing ailing schools to keep churning out unprepared students into society. Where's the outrage and heartbreak over the inequality among our school systems' racial divide? We are just shooting ourselves in the foot by not ensuring that this kind of inequality is stopped. It is bad for our citizens, bad for society as a whole, bad for our future, and bad for our success as a nationally competitive nation!

    I consider Ms. Williams-Bolar as not having committing a crime, but rather practicing civil disobedience. She chose to refuse the society that has offered her "class" inferior school educations and do something drastic about it. The society that shuns eager-to-learn children and parents away from *PUBLIC *schools is a society that gets what it deserves.

    I understand the frustration and anger felt by the woman here whose husband chose to join the military full-time to ensure his children's good education. What if she DIDN'T have that hard-working and honorable husband and was a single-income mother with an elderly father nearby to care for AND went to school full-time? What then? She implies that Ms. Williams-Bolar just isn't working hard enough to be able to make a better life for her children, and surely that can't be true!

    I keep hearing over and over again about this story that there is unfair media coverage that is sympathetic to Ms. Williams-Bolar without divulging all the details of the case. What am I missing here to understand it better? I can't see at all how this is a simple cut-and-dry case of a criminal breaking the law. Yes, she lied repeatedly, she broke several laws and took desperate measures such as claiming military service. But it's also true that the racial divide between these school systems is *criminally* unjust and racist. But who cares about the quality of education the poor black kids in the ghetto receive though, right? Where is the voice of utter outrage advocating for them? Where is the energy spent on correcting such a problem to that we don't have women's husbands fighting in wars, mothers going to jail, and a society full of educationally malnourished children?! This is all insane.

    This case is a wake-up call to our nation to hurry up and fix our school systems NOW! Rise up people and get it DONE!

  16. it's funny. when white people break the law, they break the law. when black people break the law, it's racism.

    white's have tried punishing blacks to make them equal, and tried giving in to all of their demands to make them equal... but so far neither have worked. maybe it's not up to the whites to get the black community to think of themselves as equals. maybe the black community needs to take responsibility and think of themselves as Americans first, then they will see themselves as equals.

  17. That's a very empty-headed way to view things, Anonymous. You need to go back to school!

  18. If it was wrong for her kids to attend that school then why did the school keep letting the kids back in the door/building/classroom. The school knew she was given the notice.

    Kelly Williams should not be in jail. She is a single parent trying to make sure her kids would be safe with a good education. Where is the compassion in your court system. There are worst criminals in your state that do much worst than that and they don't get any jail time.

    That judge was flexing her power.If people with power and authority sit back and doing nothing to help Kelly Williams then they are wrong also. If I had the money I would pay it for her. That judge showed no compassion and just crapped all over Kelly Williams, her children and her education to have a better life style.

  19. hmmm, something else I find curious, specifically Anonymous "Dear America" above, why does the APS system receive 33% more per student approximately $4000 than the Copely-Fairlawn District and yet continue to fail. What is telling in that is that its not the money or the school that is a issue but the parents and community that is at fault. If those parents are anything like this woman switching schools will not fix the problem!

  20. This woman of easily could of provided her kids a safe and high quality education if she had just moved in with daddy or "gasp" moved to a house/apartment in Copley, however that would have meant giving of lots of nice comfy goverment assistance. She did not do this for the kids especially since she continued to such a dangerous place!

  21. As usual, the ABJ chooses to not let the truth stand in the way of a good story

  22. No article ever mentioned how long her father had been living in the Copley area district. How long had they been planning this? Very well thought out.

  23. I cancelled my subscription to the Beacon Journal, as did several of my neighbors and friends. May I suggest that you do the same? I am sick of them telling "their side of the story".

  24. Wow. All the haters. A bunch here wine about people crying racism then follow-up with some ignorant racist comment.

    Don't blame others for your lot in life. Tax time is coming up. Find your loop hole and game the system.

  25. What do you call a person who equates a college scholarship someone receives with their suffering or struggling to pay back a college loan while seeing billions upon billions of tax payer money going to fund unnecessary wars and bank bailouts not a problem?

    Small minded? Or just plain ignorant? A Fox News viewer? A Republican politicians wet dream?

  26. She could have Open Enrolled at another school within Akron Public Schools. There are good schools in the system, my son is in one of them.

    Thanks for laying out the facts

  27. To the person that commented that I was advantaged because I happened to have a hard-working husband that joined the military to be able to afford the Copley district....

    I do not believe that she didn't work hard enough at all or that I somehow am privilegded in any way. What I do believe is that we all have choices to make. And while I am not a single mother from a legal standpoint, I have essentially been almost one for about the past 21 years of marriage. And I may not have an ailing father to take care of, but that does not make my responsibilities any less difficult to bear. Maybe I was not in school full time, but you can bet I worked full time!

    Bottom line is that we all have a choice to make every day to follow the law. As much as we may disagree with them and see some as unfair, as responsibile citizens we have a duty to obey them. Or we must accept the consequences. Americans have every opportunity to succeed if they choose to. Even those in less than perfect schools. If the parents lead by example then their children will naturally follow.

    I am not sure if you are familiar with this area, but the Akron Public Schools have open enrollment and have many fine schools. There are also charter schools available. Her other legal option was to move in with her ailing father. Surely this would have solved all of their problems. The girls could legally go to a great school, they wouldn't be home alone after school and she could care for her father. It was a choice to not go about it legally!

    I do believe you should do a little more research into this ailing father of hers as well. He has quite a history of fasifying documents and defrauding the system. How else can both the mother and the grandfather receive benefits based on guardianship of the children? He also lied about his home being a group home so that he could avoid property taxes. There are also charges of fraud against him regarding unemployment, disability and MCD. These were conscious decisions that he made and must now face the consequences for.

    I can guarantee that if this had simply been a case of a mother wanting to send her kids to a better school that there would not be as much anger. But when you factor in the fact that she also lied to AMHA, the federal program for reduced lunches (did not report child support or her own income), voter registration and the BMV it is natural that people will see she was working the system for every last penny. The argument that she somehow deserved to go to CFCS because of her father's residency is laughable too. He was not paying taxes and has a very long history of also defrauding state, local and federal entities.

    I wish the children well and I hope that something positive comes of the situation for them. But I believe with all my heart that the mother and grandfather deserve to serve time for their crimes and pay the consequences for their deceit. Their actions were very greedy and not made simply for the children. They were in this for themselves all the way and just happened to get caught.

  28. It makes me angry that you overly self-righteous people are so eager to condemn this woman for striving so hard to get a better future for herself and her children, which she did at great cost to herself: the energy she was spending and the time she was taking was enormous, driving all over the place, applying for subsidized housing while studying for a teaching credential AND raising kids!
    I followed a link to this blog because it purported to "tell the truth" about this case, which was supposed to change my feelings about this woman.
    It did, but not in the way the author intended: now more than ever I feel she should be absolved and even praised for her actions. She is an excellent, responsible parent who was running herself ragged for her kids.
    Shame on you haters.

  29. All you people who are up in arms about this woman "gaming the system" :
    When you next pay your income taxes, you will of course not file any tax exemptions. Because that would be "gaming the system." No, you as good, upstanding citizens will make every effort to pay ALL of your taxes. To do otherwise would be taking advantage of the system.

  30. Hey you "insulted" Copley residents whining about your expensive property taxes: note that her father IS a resident of Copley, and would therefore be contributing property taxes to the school, just like you are.

  31. @dveej, if that's sarcasm, you missed the mark. If not, you are a total idiot. You're...applauding a woman for how much time and energy she put into committing...FRAUD. You need your head examined.

  32. To be sure, what Ms. Bolar did was wrong. But insisting on prosecution on the felony level was obscene, especially given the judge herself strongly suggested arranging a plea bargain to lesser charges. Doing so would have served justice and the law. But it would clearly not have served the ambition or agenda of an over-zealous prosecutor.

    The assertion by the prosecutor that Ms. Bolar could have simply moved to the neighboring district, or paid tuition, callously ignores the fact that this was a working single mother who could not afford anything beyond subsidized public housing. And the felony record will now prevent this woman, dedicated not only to her own children but those of others, from being able to earn a living good enough to move out of subsidized housing and into a district with decent, safe schools for her children. It is a life sentence to a prison of poverty.

    Given there there were ample prosecutorial options without resorting to felony charges, this wasn't justice, it was retribution.

    This prosecutor should be fired.

  33. Dear Sirs:

    With all the hullabaloo regarding the Williams-Bolar case and the national attention it got, I am trying to rationalize why that kind of attention is not given to the suffering of little children. Kenneth and Tryphena Robinson are charged with beating their small children with switches, leaving scars and bruises. Mr. Robinson is the children’s stepfather. They would undress the children and beat them about their body. Isn’t that what they did to slaves? Where is the outcry when this happens? It is not the only case of its kind. What? No sensationalism when it comes to our children. Let it be a dog or other animal and it will be all over the news, or if it concerns some criminal who rips off the system. Why don’t we care more about the innocent lives that are in these animals’ hands? How frightened they have to be. You know what the ultimate sin is....? They gave these children back to the parents who beat them. Now that is a crime that needs looking into. How dare the adults and the agencies that are supposed to protect these children just send them right back to where the fear and pain is. How come no one cares about that? Is that what this system has come to? We care more about animals and money? What are we teaching our children?