Friday, January 28, 2011

Media Lessons: Williams Bolar

Unfortunately, we've now reached the point where apologies are due for the behavior of the media in reporting the case of the State v Kelley Williams Bolar.

And apologies are sorely needed.

If you've been following the case of The State v Kelley Williams Bolar then you are aware of opinion, emotion and tears. Only some of the facts. Problem is, the opinion leaders are absolutely clueless when it comes to -- as Paul Harvey used to say -- the rest of the story. There's no putting that genie back in that bottle.

And that's on us.

Somehow missing from all the national reporting is the more complete version of the remarkable lengths the Copley-Fairlawn School District went to in trying to avoid bringing this to trial. After all, it was the taxpayers of Copley-Fairlawn paying the freight for her attempts to game the system. The district is charged with seeking out abuse and fraud. They did their job.

Months of working to get a resolution stretching into years, parent after parent after parent doing the right thing and working to appeal or resolve the issue instead of compounding lie after lie after lie after lie. After all, it's the prosecutor which must enforce the law. They did so with compassion and allowed the dozens of other families to do the right thing without the weight of the law about their shoulders. They did their job.

The opportunities presented to Kelley Williams Bolar to not only resolve the issue at little or no cost but to do the right thing by her employer, the Akron School Board, which suffered by losing the state funds they should have received from enrollment of the children. That Williams Bolar not only broke the law by lying time and time again should play a part in determining if she's fit to teach Akron's children. At the very least, it deserves a serious debate and not automatic calls for clemency before the full and unvarnished truth comes out. The Akron district should be outraged one of their own, a colleague, falsified statements time and time and time again and ultimately cost Akron the state support it would have had through rightful enrollment under the rules everyone else must follow. That's their job.

Missing somehow from the media record are the records where school lunches were approved by Copley-Fairlawn based on false income statements which didn't include the child support or even Williams Bolar's Akron public schools employment?

There should be outrage from those serving our country when learning that the response to one of many letters delivered to Williams Bolar was that she was not available because she was "deployed"; not only lying on court documents, sworn statements and multiple interviews but even invoking the image of military service to dodge the issue.

How about the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority, told repeatedly in sworn statements that Williams Bolar and her children were qualified to live in public housing, a three-bedroom home and including utilities, for less than $130 a month? This at the same time Williams Bolar was switching her drivers license, registering to vote and attesting to her residence in documents to Copley-Fairlawn? Is Akron so flush with affordable housing that there were no other families deserving of the opportunity to share in the helping hand AMHA offers those in need?

What about the fact that dozens of parents, many of them minority parents (added here because supporters of Williams Bolar are themselves playing the race card now) were caught in a similar situation but did the right thing by appealing the residency ruling, paying tuition or withdrawing their children to the proper schools? Should they argue they settled too early, that stacking lies atop each other would have been rewarded in the end with national publicity and fundraising efforts on their behalf?

This case has become a referendum on the safety of Akron's neighborhoods and, unfortunately, the quality of an Akron education because Williams Bolar says she wanted a better environment for her daughters. In the process, her supporters have twisted this case into a battle cry that a mother was just looking for a better education for her children. In the process, a nation now thinks the Akron education is worth so little that even a mother who works for the school district would lie, cheat and steal to get her daughters to another district.

Wrong after wrong after wrong shouldn't make a right.

It has risen to this level of a national outcry because we in the media didn't do a good enough job of reporting the case. That's especially true in viewing the preponderance of reporting from television networks and programs and even the New York Times all based on the incomplete coverage provided by us locally, including the only media outlet to properly staff the trial -- the Akron Beacon Journal.

The opinions formed by ignorant talking heads now weighing in on this case -- from cable to network television and radio to national newspapers -- rely on a single source of information, one where apparently the facts didn't get in the way of a good story. That's just plain poor journalism.

That's on us in the media, and a sad reminder of what we do with the public trust depends on us doing our job to report honestly, faithfully and comprehensively on our communities. It's a reminder that extra sets of eyes and ears on a story help, not hinder, public understanding of the debate. Here's a case where more reporters in the room would have helped provide context and additional views.

Eyewitness testimony is often called the least reliable; one source reporting going viral is no different. The problem today is the far-away pundits have little interest in confirming facts; their interest is talking points, not truth.

When the case files are made fully available, we all owe it to you to post these documents, reports and testimony online and in a complete fashion for you to draw an educated conclusion.

Unfortunately, the folks at Fox, CNN, ABC, CBS, Rev. Sharpton, and the rest of the gang will have moved on by then to another story of a troubled homeless man with a golden voice, a publicity-desperate father willing to pretend his son was afloat in a balloon floating in the skies toward the Rockies, or a woman who fell into a fountain while using her cell phone crying foul only to be revealed as a criminal with a penchant for lawsuits. What used to provoke shame and embarrassment now provides ratings and entertainment.

They never learn as long as we continue to reward them to feed us wild opinion based on unreliable news. We are all hurt while our sources of information -- both traditional and new -- suffer from lower standards not because of rivals in the business but because of the lack of competition in the news marketplace.

Prior post on this subject: The Excess Isn't In Prosecuting Wrongdoing


  1. This isn't the first time the ABJ has left out information on a story. There have been various stories in the past where I read them and was left with more questions than they answered. In this case I read the first 2 stories and both times I wondered why there wasn't info about how the other cases we resolved, they just made very general statements about the fact that Williams-Bolar wasn't the only parent but they never elaborated on what happened or how the other families resolved the issue.
    I know many people that have moved so they could put their child in a good school district or usually when people are picking a place to live they find a good school district to move into... why should Williams-Bolar get to have her cake and eat it too??

    And you're very correct in saying that the media doesn't report nearly as many facts as they should!! Too much sensationalism!! And it seems to just get worse!!

    Thank you for your informative letters! Its good to know that someone still cares about the truth.

  2. Please, someone with more internet experience than I, send this site as a reference to Judge Pirro's people at Fox before she airs her show at 9PM on Sat. where she will feature this case.

  3. 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.

  4. American education system: Then & Now
    1821-Illegal/felony to teach a Black child to read. Penalty: Imprisonment /Death
    2011-Same Crime; Only Half the Punishment
    Now THAT'S Change You Can believe in!!!

  5. I'm sorry but she lost my support when I read the word " DEPLOYED" THAT'S LIKE CALLING IN SICK SAYING YOUR MOTHER DIED AND THAT'S JUST A LIE.

  6. She never had your support. Come on.

  7. I think it is sad that people do not want to admit that they are racist.... and will use any excuse to claim that there was nothing racial done to a minority here in the US one of the most racist countries around. We must realize that we are all Americans and due all the right that Americans have to offer including fair treatment when it comes to the law and education.
    Back to the posting you we're speaking on "facts" in the case not being metioned. When reading your blog you listed many things as fraudulent which were not. I will give you the true facts. This mother was receiving food stamps which means her 800.00 child support and her little wages she received from her part-time employment with the school district was not enough to support her family. Fact number to she is one of the families deserving of housing authority assistance and her income was on record with the housing authority which is also the state and you can not hide money that you get from the state from a state organization because they already no about it. She still qualified for her $130 subsidized housing including her income and is still below the poverty levels in the US. She was wrongly accused of lying and not including her income on the free-lunch program application because she does not have to turn that in. She receives food stamps and that automatically qualifies her for food stamps. This of course was not information given to the jurors so that they could therefor make and educated desicion about her case. It also would have been educated of you to first find out how the system works before accussing a person of trying to beat it. Secondly the lies she told to keep her daughter in the systems are lies.... you have told them as well but are your lies a crime? The fact that she falsified documents to let her children attend the Copley-Fairlawn school was not a crime for the Barberton family who owed the district $32,649.20 for six children one with a disability in may of 2008. (the Barberton family which I will assume is white because it does not mention) I will note that the media and many bloggers surely would have let us know this was a black family to discredit that this counrty is racist still in 2011.
    So the fact you metioned about her housing and child support where never a issue in this case and neither should the free lunch have been seeing that she would have gotten free lunch no matter what school the kids attended and her insome did not matter and was not needed to apply for it. I also realize that you must have been furtunate enough not to have had to use the system ever so you are clueless and should have gotten the facts. Now that those facts are out and we no that other families were allowed to stay in the district and even families that residency issue were never resolved case have been closed and the children still attend the school. Now that you have all the facts are you able to make an educated decision. Are you able to understand the significance of this case and why this had to be stopped. If you are a racist you don't because you would think that every black person should be incarcerated and that they get a fair trial in a conctitution system that was not made for minorities. I do love America..., I support my country and my troops but I don't think that the LAW of the land still applies for the problems of today but yet we still have the same system that was not built for the people who live here and are natural born American citizens whether you like it or now. Come together and complain about the big banks that stole billions and have our economy still in a mess...people who can afford to pay us back and should be made too, maybe that does not bother you though because you ar one of them....stop being a racist.