Posted by Darlene
By now, many have heard of the story of the Ohio woman who was sentenced to jail time for falsifying records to send her children to a better school though it was outside of the scope of her residency. Though I normally don’t dive into topics such as this, it is difficult for me to remain silent. The story of Kelley Willians-Bolar grabbed my heart and simply left me shaking my head.
Without a doubt, it cannot be denied that a crime was committed. And for that there must be a consequence. However, in this case any sane and humane individual would have to beg the question – “Did the punishment fit the crime?” Not only so, there are some larger issues in this case that we can gloss over if we decide to simply place all of the emphasis on Williams-Bolar’s actions. Issues such as
1. A broken educational system – if the school environment where her children should have attended were better quality and equally resourced, would her actions be the same?
2. Issues of poverty and inequality – The climb out of poverty is no easy climb, especially within a system that has been historically unequal. No matter how far we have come in the issues of class and race, the reality is that we have lots more ground to cover. I believe that Williams-Bolar is just another example of a single parent trying to figure out how to make the climb out and up. Of course now, because she has been “made an example of” it will now be even more difficult for her to move ahead.
3. A flawed and at times prejudiced judicial system – Not only does the question of race have to be raised, we also need to take into account that she is not a repeat offender – she is a mother trying to get ahead and not only care for her children, but was also attempting to better herself educationally. Again, the question is not whether a punishment should be enforced, but what type of judgment is fair and right?
On another note, as I followed this case I couldn’t help but reflect on another story in the news just days prior of a school bus driver found intoxicated while transporting multiple school children, endangering their lives and putting the lives of other drivers at risk. Her penalty – 480 hours of community service, fines, and probation with the absence of jail time.
To borrow from Elon James White:
“I’m not saying Kelley Williams-Bolar was right. I’m not saying she shouldn’t have to pay what she owes to the local government. I’m saying to make an example of a poor mother with a family on her first offense is unconscionable. To think this reasonable is to ignore the reality that we live in and the shades of right and wrong that appear in so many offenses.”
Williams-Bolar’s actions, though wrong, are only a very small part of the equation. Placing an emphasis on her actions while ignoring the circumstances that surround her actions and setting them in the proper context of societal and systemic ills is a greater offense. Judging Williams-Bolar is incomplete in that it fails to address the root causes.
What are your thoughts on this story? I would love to hear from you in the comments