TOTAL FAIL

I picked this up from CMR:

Locking children into failing schools just wasn’t enough. Now, we’re locking up mothers for trying to send their kids to better schools.

This is madness. A mother has been sent to jail for lying about her residence because she was attempting to send her kids to a better school district.

If you ask me, the union thugs and their cohorts in Congress and state legislatures around the country should be the ones facing time for locking children into failing schools.

Time Magazine reports:

Much of the poltical rhetoric on education reform has centered on the ability of parents to send their children to better schools, particularly in situations where they were forced to send them to schools that were failing. But in the case of Kelley Williams-Bolar, her desire to get her children better educational placement landed her in jail, and may well derail her aspirations of becoming a teacher herself.

Williams-Bolar, 40, and her two children live in housing projects in Akron, Ohio. For two years, she sent them to school in the Copley-Fairlawn district, where her father lived, because it was a safer environment — the high crime rate in her area drove her decision. The suburban school district hired a private investigator to find their residential records and it turned out she listed the children as living in that district, although they actually stayed with her.

Technically, that qualifies as a felony since she falsified records, and Judge Patricia Cosgrove sentenced her to two concurrent five-year prison sentences. She suspended the sentence, though, in favor of a 10-day jail sentence, 80 hours of community service and three years probation. She had been working as a teaching assistant for special needs children and earning a teaching degree, but since she is now a convicted felon, under Ohio law she cannot earn that degree.

[...]

Never has the word “FAIL!” been more appropriate.

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45 Responses to TOTAL FAIL

  1. RichardT says:

    Doesn’t surprise me, sadly. Here in England the government has been using anti-terrorism surveillance powers to catch parents doing the same thing.

    And yet the supporters of public education claim that there is nothing seriously wrong with the system.

  2. MissOH says:

    The Ohio Supreme Court years ago (close to 10) ruled that the method of funding Ohio schools (property taxes) violated our state constitution and ordered the state change the method of funding. No change has been made to date. We have school districts like the one her father lived in that have a lot of money and means. Akron is not the worst, but we have some counties in Ohio where the students and teachers can only dream of having computers, AP courses, choices of foreign languages to study etc.

    Part of the school district’s arguments seem to be they were not getting property taxes since she did not live there, but they were since her dad lived there. Now districts don’t “discriminate” against renters vs owners, for example, I was a renter (my landlord of course paid the property taxes), but there was never any issue that my child could attend the public schools in our city so I really fail to see the difference between the taxes the father was paying and the situation of a renter in that school district (who also is not paying any property taxes directly).

    My personal opinion is that jail should be reserved for those who are or could potentially be a threat to society or who have committed serious crimes. Drunk driver-jail=yes, child or wife/husband abuser, jail=yes, this woman- come on now!

    Father, I concur- FAIL.

  3. jeffreyquick says:

    If school funding is on a per-district basis, and the children do not actually live in the district but attend school there, are they not actually STEALING an education they are not entitled to? I agree that the situation is sad, and merits mercy. But why couldn’t the woman have the kids live with her dad?

  4. Supertradmum says:

    I cannot understand this. When I read it, I thought that now, indeed, we have become a tyrannical, empire, having lost our understanding of local rights and that fact that parents are the first educators of their children-not the state-ever.

  5. We have school districts like the one her father lived in that have a lot of money and means. Akron is not the worst, but we have some counties in Ohio where the students and teachers can only dream of having computers, AP courses, choices of foreign languages to study etc.

    It’s not all about money. Copley’s per pupil expenditure is $9,928. Akron’s per pupil expenditure is $13,200.

    Part of the school district’s arguments seem to be they were not getting property taxes since she did not live there, but they were since her dad lived there.

    While she was tried for that crime (grand theft), she actually wasn’t convicted of it, but of filing false documents to enroll her children. Even if, for the sake of argument, the end is just, she can’t use unjust means to accomplish it. Assume, the law that restricts her children to attending the Akron school district is unjust (and therefore could be legitimately broken), she can’t violate just laws (against filing false documents with the government) in order to do so.

  6. I agree that this is stealing. It also is a horrible example to her children– she’s teaching them that lying is okay. What kind of an education is that? I’m sure she had other options that didn’t involve sin and the possibility of felony charges and a criminal record.

    I have no sympathy for institutional education in general, but I also think that Catholics should have more ethics than this.

  7. Supertradmum says:

    I agree the mother should be held accountable for lying and stealing. But, the punishment does not fit the crime, in my mind.

  8. moon1234 says:

    When you take a look at it from a different angle it starts to make sense. Black woman and kids attending a mostly white school. I am sure that raised a few flags for some people who have problems with that. The school hired a private investigator? Gee, I wonder how much money they REALLY have.

    Just goes to show that you should NEVER allow your kids to attend a public institution. It will corrupt them and make you a slave to the state. Home school or private school. That is really the only option parents have to avoid insane situations like this one.

  9. Katherine says:

    Its not just the public schools. My friend Mrs. Flanagan says she is “Italian by upbringing.” After her father died, her family moved into public housing. St. Patrick’s Church and School had made sure the parish boundries, with some contortion, had the projects included in Mt. Carmel, the Italian parish. Her recently widowed mother was told to make quick arrangements to transfer the children.

  10. albizzi says:

    Policy in France on this issue looks much less “stalinist” than in the US.
    Parents are allowed to put their kids in whichever school they want, private (=catholic) or public school, according to their preferences. They may move them to a better school if they are not satisfied with the local one.
    Useless to say that the private schools (about one in five shools) give the best results for the kids cursus so that even atheist, jewish and muslims families prefer them although they claim to be catholic.

  11. JPManning says:

    Who do you think failed, the woman or the system? Schools only have a finite number of places, the unreported story is the honest set of parent’s whose child couldn’t get in to their local school. There’s a common error in secular society of people deifying their own children, an idea that it is just and even obligatory to do absolutely anything to secure their children’s future. As Christians we know it’s wrong to commit evil to achieve a good, you can’t lie to get your child in to school. Almost everyone will think this woman was right and the authority too heavy handed but I recognise the seed of the culture of death. If you can only afford private school fees for two children then you use contraception after that. If the pill fails then you abort the baby because you can’t bear the idea of withdrawing your other children from the good school. When you’re old you don’t want to be a burden on your children, you know they need the inheritance to pay school fees for your grandchildren so you ask the Swiss doctor to shorten your life. Lying is not as bad as murder but once you justify doing something wrong to achieve a good end the Devil will lead you a long way down that dangerous road.

  12. oddfisher says:

    Can we please make a distinction between morality and prissiness? We have a mother who is denied her basic right to send her children to a decent school. (And yes, in a society which has the resources of this one, even during hard times, it is a right.) And she was tried for grand theft? Where’s the outrage over the clear abuse of prosecutorial discretion? Not every moral wrong should be a crime. I’m sure everyone responding to this post (me included) commits a greater sin than this minor offense every day. Offenses like gossiping at work, stiffing a waitress because it appeals to our sense of power, screaming at your children. Unless we’re willing to see our own more serious and socially destructive sins made into felonies, we should probably direct our outrage where it belongs–at the corrupt public education system which provides the incentive for these kinds of actions.

  13. AnAmericanMother says:

    It seems fundamentally wrong that this lady was convicted of a felony. Unless everybody has to sign a notarized oath that their child resides in the district, or she lied in the course of an investigation, in which case I suppose she could be guilty of perjury — although usually perjury has to be committed in a judicial proceeding so the most this would be would be ‘making a false statement’ – usually a misdemeanor.

    There’s a certain amount of district-line fudging and registering at the home of the non-custodial parent, grandparent, etc. that goes on everywhere. All I have ever heard of is that a cheating parent, when found out, will be asked to pay some money as “tuition” for the time the child was in the wrong school and the child will be immediately bounced from the school.

    I’m not saying there’s never been a perjury prosecution . . . but pursuing this as a felony seems way over the top.

    There must be more to this story. “Somebody ain’t tellin’ all he knows.”

  14. Kate says:

    The educational system does not work.

    This mother has not “stolen” an education for her children. Rather, these children (and now the mother) are victims of prejudice.

    I hope Oprah has her on her show, that she gets a book deal, and that she starts on the lecture circuit – speaking out about the inequalities that exist in our “free and equal” educational system.

    And I hope she gets stinking, filthy rich in the process.

  15. Supertradmum says:

    Kate,

    Education and moms bring out the tiger in me, as well.

  16. bookworm says:

    I agree than convicting this woman of a felony and threatening her with jail time seems excessive. But couldn’t she have avoided the problem in the first place by simply living with her dad, or at least sending her kids to live there during the week? If she owned a home in the “bad” school district and was unable to sell it or rent it out, I could see where she might have had no other choice, but if she was living in public housing she and the kids could have moved out at any time.

    In every community I have lived in the penalty for lying about your kids’ school district residency is either expulsion of your kids from the school or your agreeing to pay non-resident tuition to make up for what the district isn’t getting in state aid for your child (which usually exceeds even the most expensive tuition charged at Catholic schools).

  17. cwillia1 says:

    Yes she is a criminal. She lied to get something for her children that they were not entitled to. As urban school districts go Akron is not bad. It is certainly not Detroit. My children got an excellent education in the Akron schools. Firestone High School often shows up on lists of nationally recognized excellent schools. Akron schools have more money per pupil than the surrounding suburban districts. Not only that but Ohio allows open enrollment. Any suburban district (and there are some) that accepts students from outside the district gets a significant amount of money from the state along with the student. Copley-Fairlawn does not participate but other districts do. There are students coming into Akron from suburban districts for the superior programs Akron offers.

    This woman had alternatives. She chose to lie to get what she wanted.

  18. AnAmericanMother says:

    cwillia,

    OK, let’s take as read that she’s a criminal. Everybody who tells a lie to get something they’re not entitled to is a criminal. Everybody who lies about their legal residence is a criminal. Everybody who fudges their age by a few years to get a senior citizen discount is a criminal. Everybody who tells the officer “but I wasn’t speeding” is a criminal.

    But . . . a felon? You do realize that felons lose all their civil rights – the right to vote, to hold many jobs, to own firearms? There’s a reason that there are grades of crime, because the punishment for a felony is severe and permanent – unless you can get a pardon from the governor or petition to get your civil rights restored, which may or may not be possible in your state.

    Even the Mikado would say that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime here.

  19. PostCatholic says:

    Sorry–but if no one invests at all in improving schools which do not perform well in failing communities, then how will they get better? And isn’t lying on forms to get a child into a school district that is more advantageous akin to stealing bread to feed a hungry family–done for understandable and even noble reasons, but a bit hard on the baker?

    I would imagine in this instance that a good case can be made for an expungement after the sentence is served. But what chaos results if every parent acts in this way instead of investing her talents in the school system to improve it? Someone has to if any improvement will be had.hh

  20. celledoor says:

    Total fail? really? Let me quote you back an April 10, 2010 article of yours:

    “Note well: At issue is the ability of people who are in the USA illegally. They are “illegal immigrants”.”

    “I doubt that many people in the USA illegally are intending to “plunder”. But some are. It would be nice to be able to prevent those who have that intention from carrying out their plans to commit crimes. However, I do believe that quite a few people coming into the USA illegally do have the intention of consuming public resources. No? And if it is only a matter of a very few, it would still be good to know who they are and what their reasons are. Are they truly refugees? Do they need other forms of assistance?”

    Now how is this any different?

    Outsiders who don’t participate and aren’t part of the community stealing resources that the community built up.. hardly a fail in my eyes. I lived in a school district where we made the top 100 in the Nation.. we see stuff like this year in and year out.

  21. abiologistforlife says:

    @moon1234: “Just goes to show that you should NEVER allow your kids to attend a public institution. It will corrupt them and make you a slave to the state.”

    I’m not saying it’s bad some places; but I went to public school (and it wasn’t that long ago, either!), and it wasn’t nearly as bad as you suggest. There wasn’t anything particularly un-Christian or politically correct about the education we got.

    In my experience, the public school system’s problems have more to do with inefficiency, an excess of petty bureaucrats, and teaching-to-the-test than they do with any moral corruption.

    On the other hand, I live in a strongly conservative state with a history of small-ish government (although one of the more liberal regions of that state), so that may be a factor.

  22. abiologistforlife says:

    edit: first sentence above should say “I’m not saying it isn’t bad some places”.

  23. KAS says:

    Not surprised but this would have been an excellent time for jury nullification!

  24. benedetta says:

    Agree, total fail. We need vouchers and school choice.

  25. Anne M. says:

    Boy, did this post strike a nerve.

    In the state in which I live, this is a misdemeanor and the penalty is the removal of the child from the “wrong” school. The school system requires the use of the custodial parent’s address, regardless of who the child actually lives with. What has frustrated me is that our young niece lived with us for seven years. This was a family agreement and we did not have custody. My sister-in-law was unable to care for her but unwilling to give us custody.

    So, initially I filed a request for a school transfer so our niece could attend a school closer to our home. The request was granted, but we had to drive our niece to and from school every day. That was ok with us. Our niece’s teachers, having met her mother, were delighted that our niece lived with us and the principal of her school allowed us to use our address.

    Then our niece graduated to middle school. We were honest with the counselor there and told her about the family situation. Because at the time my sister-in-law lived in the same school district as we did we were allowed to continue using our address for our niece.

    Keep in mind my sister-in-law has moved 5 times in the last 7 years. Using her address for our niece would have meant 5 different schools for her by 6th grade. By the time our niece came to live with us at age 8 she had already been in 3 different elementary schools.

    My niece is now in high school and unfortunately her mother has taken her back, but that’s another story.

    The school system is very strict about the use of addresses. We were lucky to have a school principal who understood our situation.

  26. Kate says:

    AkronNewsNow.com reports that the judge that sentenced the woman is trying to help her keep her job. At least that’s something…

    “1/22/11…The Summit County Common Pleas Judge who sentenced Kelley Williams-Bolar of Akron to 10 days in jail and community service for lying to Copley-Fairlawn Schools to enroll her children there, is interceding with the state board of education on Bolar’s behalf.
    The Beacon Journal reports that Judge Patricia Cosgrove sent a letter to the Education Department on Thursday asking state officials not to suspend Williams-Bolar’s teaching assistant’s license or any teaching license she might obtain in the future. “

  27. AnAmericanMother says:

    That means the judge is feeling the heat. Now the idiot who decided to prosecute this as a felony needs to feel the heat.

    Of course, that doesn’t solve the problem of her being unable to vote or own firearms or any of the other civil rights she has lost. And of course the state board of ed could just tell the judge to take a hike, or maybe not. How nice to have your rights as a citizen at the mercy of the whim of some bureaucrat.

    What was it the bad guy said in Atlas Shrugged? We’re going to make so many things into crimes that everybody will be guilty of something. It’s easier to keep people in line that way.

    Insanity.

  28. cwillia1 says:

    AnAmericanMom,

    As a taxpayer in Ohio I am not particularly interested in paying to incarcerate this woman for her crime. But this woman lied to get significant government services she was not entitled to. She knew what she was doing. She had other options, including charter schools which I didn’t mention above. The prosecutor has his job, the jury has its job, the judge has her job. The education bureaucrats in Columbus, OH have their job and then there is the governor who can give her a pardon – a governor who is desperate to save money.

    On the other hand I would not want this woman in a position of public trust. The Akron schools are right to fire her.

  29. Supertradmum says:

    AnAmericanMother,

    I heartily agree with you. We are too apt to criminalize those who see themselves as trapped, instead of looking outside the box as to how we can help these people. Sadly, this woman seems to have been easy with lying. But, to push her further into restricted life-style is over-reacting. Why can we not see that some “crimes” deserve strict punishment and some so not? What about the young man who ruined the 500 year old Baring’s Bank with stupid and reckless, rogue fradulaent trading and investments? Nicholas Leeson is now in charge of some football club as a CEO. Sorry, the punishment did not fit the crime there, either.

  30. ContraMundum says:

    She got 10 days and community service. Sorry, folks, but that sounds like a very reasonable penalty.

    The facts of the case do not appear to be in dispute. She DID lie. She DID break the law. As someone who worked in education, she must have known what she was doing was illegal. In the face of that, would you want her declared “not guilty”? Would you really prefer a 2nd lie to cover the 1st?

    If you want the felony conviction removed from her record, write the governor about her case. Make sure you emphasize that you are asking for MERCY. The courts have already given her justice.

  31. Flambeaux says:

    ContraMundum,
    As a firm believer in Jury Nullification, I would not have voted to convict. I don’t care that she broke the law. The law is a ass.

  32. ContraMundum says:

    “Aw, Mom, but Jimmy did something worse and didn’t get punished! It’s not fair!!!”

    Does this work when your kids try it on you?

    Yes, the penalties of our legal system are not always in proportion to the crimes. This is a real problem that needs to be fixed. It does not have anything to do with this case, though, because she was only given 10 days and community service. That’s certainly unpleasant, but not outrageous, and it’s not the worst CONSEQUENCE for her. Even if she had been given no time at all in jail, the felony conviction would have still prevented her from getting a teaching job. That’s not an unreasonable law, nor was her conviction unreasonable.

  33. ContraMundum says:

    Flambeaux: Well, if we were both on the jury, it would have ended in a mistrial. And if “ifs” and “buts” were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas!

  34. oddfisher says:

    So this is a felony because its a serious moral evil, and it’s a serious moral evil because it’s a felony. Is it just me, or is there some flaw in this logic?

  35. Flambeaux says:

    ContraMundum,
    If the society we lived in was a family, your analogy might hold water. But as it isn’t, it won’t.

    There was no actual malum in se committed. This was malum prohibitum akin to speeding and other things the “government” has no business regulating.

    But then I don’t belive governments should be providing education, either.
    A mistrial is better than a felony conviction when the crime is an invention of bureaucrats.

  36. ContraMundum says:

    Yes, oddfisher, there is a flaw in your logic.

    Was it a serious moral evil to lie even before the Ohio legislature existed? Oh, if only someone had given us a few basic commandments — 10 would be a good start — to help us decide in such cases!

  37. Flambeaux says:

    I’m glad you live in such a simple world, ContraMundum. That informs me greatly about how fruitless any attempt to engage you seriously will prove. I’ll quit wasting my time.

  38. ContraMundum says:

    Flambeaux: In principle I’m willing to agree about getting the government out of public education, mostly because I don’t believe that there’s a public any more.

    I have to strongly disagree with the idea that the government shouldn’t regulate traffic. I’ll throw in food and drug safety as well, and several other things along the same lines. A radically libertarian government would not only suffer from the obvious deficiencies, it would also lead to an over-reaction in the opposite direction and the enthusiastic (for a time) embrace of a totalitarian state.

  39. ContraMundum says:

    Same here, Flambeaux. No use talking to someone who thinks that BUT I *WANT* TO is seriously engaging an issue.

  40. MichaelJ says:

    The general consensus here is that the Mother acted wrongly because she lied to obtain something for here children that they were not entitled to. I am curious about that. What is it, specifically, that they were not ‘entitled’ to, and how would they obtain such an entitlement?

    In anyone here really willing to suggest that an individual’s “entitlement” is directly tied to their means? A ‘poor’ individual is not ‘entitled’ to the same quality of education that a ‘rich’ individual is? Those who rather cavalierly suggest that a mother who wants to send her children to a better school should simply move to a better school district seem to forget or ignore that this is simply not possible.

  41. oddfisher says:

    ContraMundum–Of course lying is wrong and a violation of a commandment. It’s also a basic principle of prudence that not every case of wrongdoing should be criminalized. No one can reasonably advocate prosecuting everyone who breaks a commandment. Not only would it be wrong for every sin to be a crime, it’s also wrong to consider every sin to be equally serious. Even for serious sins, culpability may be more or less severe depending on circumstances.

    The fact that it’s wrong to lie doesn’t settle the matter. I realize that the school district and its supporters believe that a seriously wrong was committed, but we’re not obliged to agree with them. The fact that the mother’s actions were a felony does not settle the matter either. The question is, was this a case of overcriminalization and abuse of prosecutorial discretion?

  42. ContraMundum says:

    MichaelJ:

    First of all, it might be reasonable to place education in a different classification than things like food and shelter, which are always essential to life, or medicine, which may be essential. I would say that food, shelter, and medicine are human rights, but education is a civil right; naturally, others may disagree.

    Secondly, her kids were receiving an education. We are expected to take at face value the claim that it would not be possible, no matter how much they tried, for them to receive as good an education from the school in their neighborhood as from the school to which she sent them. If that is the case, it can be asked whether she was “entitled” to not just an education for her kids, but to an education that met with her standards.

    The real problem, though, is the way she went about getting the “better education” for her kids. There is nothing in the story that showing that it “is simply not possible” for her to send her kids to live with her dad, exactly as she had told the school board they were doing. That would have required some real family sacrifices, of course, but it would have kept her out of court and on schedule for graduation.

  43. MichaelJ says:

    ContraMundum,

    Have you ever moved? Have you ever tried to establish a new residence anywhere? If so, then you know that it is not cheap. I would not expect a family that lives in public housing to be able to afford to move to a better school district.

    You also seem to have a rather pollyanna-ish understanding of the state of public education. Are you seriously suggesting that those parents who object to the status of inner city schools, for example, simply have standards that are too high?
    Make no mistake about it. The government has no business running education and is overstepping its authority. Since it is mandatory though, and the state can and has used its coercive power to enforce their stranaglehold, it is an evil that parents must put up with. As such, they are entitled – yes entitled – to a bit of leeway.

  44. ContraMundum says:

    Well, maybe she could afford to move if she cheated on her taxes. Presumably she should be given leeway on that, too, since the principle has already been established that she can both lie and disregard the law to improve her situation. As someone no longer bound by either law or truth, she should be able to find a number of creative ways of getting out of poverty. At the very least, she could lie about her credentials on resumes, and I’m sure someone could be found who could forge her a diploma to back them up.

    I’m glad we can now agree that, as I think Charles Peguy said, “Life holds only one tragedy, ultimately: not to have been rich,” and as someone else said, “The love of money is the root of all good.” Not being rich, she can’t be expected to be good.

  45. I wrote about this this morning and flippantly said, wouldn’t it be easier to homeschool? http://nofightingnobiting.blogspot.com/2011/01/why-didnt-she-just-homeschool.html

    So, for all those who don’t think this such a big deal, if you live right next to a state line, say in Vermont, and NH is about to hold their primary, would you cross state lines to vote? It is illegal to do so, just as it is illegal to cross district lines to attend a particular school. If you don’t like the rules then pick a different method of educating your child, such as homeschooling.