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.
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?