Marked as political, but more of a justice[sic] issue.
On the day Kelley Williams-Bolar walked out of the Summit County Jail, public outrage over her local school residency case went viral on Internet blogs, Facebook, the vast audience of New York City radio and ABC national news.
Williams-Bolar admitted in a brief telephone interview, hours after her release Wednesday morning, that she was so overwhelmed by the nationwide attention to her story, she could not put it into words.
''I'm just trying to get my head together,'' she said, repeating herself but unable to say anything more.
A jail official confirmed that Williams-Bolar, 40, was released about 10 a.m., after serving nine days of a 10-day sentence for improperly enrolling her children in Copley-Fairlawn schools.
Common Pleas Judge Patricia Cosgrove, who handled the four-day trial and sentencing, gave Williams-Bolar credit for one day of time served. It was derived from the day she was arrested and taken to jail on multiple felony charges in November 2009, court records show.
On Jan. 18, Williams-Bolar was sentenced to 10 days in jail after a jury convicted her of two felony counts of tampering with records. She also was given two years of probation and ordered to perform 80 hours of community service.
Those offenses involved several instances of signed or sworn school registration forms, applications for reduced or free school lunches and other official documents Williams-Bolar authorized when she enrolled her two daughters in Copley-Fairlawn schools in August 2006.
While the girls were registered as living with Williams-Bolar's father in Copley Township within the Copley school district, prosecutors maintained they actually were living with her in Akron, in subsidized housing the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority provided.
At the time of trial earlier this month, school district officials testified that some 30 to 40 similar residency issues had arisen with other families during the two years at issue in Williams-Bolar's case.
No one else faced criminal prosecution or civil court action, the school officials said.
Criticism on ABC website
By midafternoon Wednesday, a story on the ABC News website had drawn several hundred comments, many of them expressing fury about the single black mother's treatment by the predominantly white Copley-Fairlawn school system.
''This is another new face of racism, bias and discrimination,'' the commentator identified as wi11oh wrote. ''How many drug dealers went free in Akron Ohio?''
The Akron chapter of the National Action Network, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, was leading an effort on Facebook to raise money to enable Williams-Bolar to afford an appeal of her case. Donations were to be sent directly to her.
7,292 sign petition
A second Facebook petition seeking support for Williams-Bolar grew to 7,292 signatures in less than a day, petition leader Deborah Price of Washington, D.C., said.
''The ladies are so enraged,'' she told the Beacon Journal in an interview Wednesday. ''All the women that have come online have related. It's a living reality for parents.''
WKSU News Director M.L. Schultze discussed the case on NPR's Talk of the Nation. Listeners can hear it via podcast at http://www.npr.org.
A Change.org web-based petition seeking to reduce William-Bolar's sentence on appeal had collected almost 7,000 signatures by midafternoon.
''She has been robbed of the opportunity to elevate her life and the lives of her family through her own intelligence and hard work — the alleged 'American Dream,' '' the petition read in part.
An article on the Daily Kos website said the case had clear racial overtones — and not in a good way.
''If Ms. Williams and her children had been white would the school have gone to this trouble to expose them as supposed 'criminals?' '' MKA 193 wrote under the headline Parenting While Black: Ohio Woman Jailed for 'Stealing an Education.
''I think that any fair-minded observer would have to say 'no.' ''
Beacon Journal writers covering the case were the subjects of interviews on New York City radio station WBAI's (99.5-FM) Wake Up Call on Wednesday.
Judge Jeanine Pirro will interview columnist Bob Dyer on Fox News at 9 p.m. Saturday.
Meanwhile, Copley-Fairlawn's central office received calls from nine media outlets, including ABC, CBS, Fox News, Headline News and National Public Radio, a school spokesperson said.
The office also fielded 31 calls from the general public — 30 of them from people living outside the district.
Stories ran on the Huffington Post, legal websites, Reason.org, Salon.org, Snopes.com. and the African American News blog.
Meeting in Akron
In other developments in the case, Akron City Council President Marco Sommerville met with Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the issue of why the case could not have been resolved without the filing of felony charges.
No details of that meeting were provided.
Williams-Bolar, a single mother who was going to college and working as a teaching assistant at Buchtel High School, had no previous record.
Within hours of the sentencing hearing, Cosgrove spoke out after becoming the target of public outcry over the case, which threatens the mother's job and her hopes to become a school teacher.
Cosgrove said the prosecutor's office refused to consider reducing the charges to misdemeanors during numerous pretrial meetings to resolve the case outside of court.
In the joint trial of Williams-Bolar and her father, Edward L. Williams, 64, the jury was deadlocked — 11-1 for a finding of guilty — on charges of grand theft against each defendant.
Walsh has declined to comment on the case, or to say whether her office will retry the grand theft charges.
Dad faces Feb. 2 hearing
Williams, who faces tampering and theft charges in connection with attempts to obtain public assistance from the Summit County Department of Job and Family Services, has a Feb. 9 court hearing scheduled in his case.
What the **** is this ****? Has America gone completely insane?
A felony? Really? My kids can go to any school in the province - in fact, my son is currently attending school in another jurisdiction. Then again, the provincial government collects the school tax and doles it out to school jurisdictions based on their enrollment as of Sept 30 each year, so funding is not the issue here that it appears to be in Ohio.
Posts: 9105 From: Indy southside, IN Registered: Jul 2009
She was convicted of tampering with records in order to get her kids into the school, and for free/reduced price lunches. NOT for sending her kids to another school district.
True, but justice is supposed to be impartial and from what I've read, it's a lot like (I think) Richard Pryor once said about blacks, prison, and justice. "Want to see justice? Go look in prison, that's what you will see--Just Us."
I don't agree that she did the right thing, but I do agree that justice may well have been misdirected solely at her because of her race. Just not enough information so far to say one way or another. I do agree, that the headline was misleading and sensationalist.
Posts: 31129 From: Long Beach Registered: Jan 2001
Instead of breaking the rules why not fight to get them changed. Instead of moving stay and make things better where you are. Instead of lying tell the truth and stand up for it instead of lying to get what you want.
I pay taxes so the little ankle bitters can go to school and I don't even have children. I wouldn't want someone from another county sending their kids to my county and making my taxes go up. She could have at the very least moved the kids into her fathers house while they were going to school.
She lied and she got caught doing it. Should it be a felony charge? I don't know there is far worse going on in our country that gets let go. I say she should have to either move or have her kids stay with her father. Or better yet fight to get the rules changed. But lying to get her way was wrong.
Posts: 11159 From: Benton County, OR Registered: Dec 2002
Arizona has an open enrollment law and kids can be enrolled in any school the parent chooses. Ohio like many other States has arcane school funding laws with each school district acting like a municipality. This is but one example of why our educational system is in shambles.
I was under the impression that schools were mostly funded by the state, so I didn’t really understand the ‘cheating’ aspect of it. Wouldn’t the school get extra money due to the kids’ attendance? Why then, would they complain?
It turns out that the state of Ohio (like many other states) discriminates against some districts by withholding funding. Out of 609 Ohio school districts, the state-funded revenue per pupil ranges from under $2,000 to over $10,000. The Copley-Fairlawn District receives only $1,929 per student.
Everyone in every district pays taxes that get funneled into the Department of Education. Shouldn’t that money then get equally distributed to each pupil in the state, regardless of which school district they are a part of? Why doesn’t it? As it turns out, the state decides how much each district should contribute to the cost of educating its students, and then it makes up the difference. In wealthy neighborhoods like the Copley-Fairlawn District, Ohio assumes that the residents can pay more in local taxes, so they offer a paltry $1,929 per student, even though those residents already paid state taxes into the state education fund.
Given that information, I can see why the district opted to prosecute Williams-Bolar for taking advantage of the system, even though the state was probably thanking her for saving them up to $8,000 per kid. However, there is the matter of her father being a legal resident and taxpayer in the district. He has been paying taxes, why shouldn’t he have the option of enrolling his grandkids? The school district thinks it’s fair to tax him to pay for other people’s kids to attend good schools, but not his own grandchildren?
If you have to live within a tax-paying district to take advantage of public services, does this mean you can’t enter a library that isn’t in your area? Can you call the cops if you’re robbed outside of your district? What if your income level is such that you don’t pay taxes?
I do agree, that the headline was misleading and sensationalist.
The press being sensationalist?Nah.. couldn't ever happen
If she violated the law, she should be punished. ( but so should anyone else that had done this, should be applied equally ). Don't agree with the law, change it, or be willing accept the consequences if you get caught.