school busIt seems like the whole world is raging on behalf of Kelley Williams-Bolar, the Ohio mom jailed for faking her daughters' residence so they could attend a better school district. How dare a mom be penalized for just wanting better for her kids, the Internet is asking? She's just a poor, black, single mom being hand-picked to bear the brunt of everyone else's mistakes!

Indeed, it's becoming apparent that prosecutors wanted to use Williams-Bolar to make an example to other parents of what will happen when you falsify official documents to fake your kids' way into a school district where you neither live nor pay taxes. That stinks. Really and truly. But guess what, outraged Americans. She's still guilty.

As details of the Williams-Bolar case have come out, I've become increasingly disgusted with her actions. In case you're not familiar with the case, the mom of two girls, ages 12 and 16, sent her daughters to the Copley-Fairlawn school district. The only problem? Neither she nor the girls actually lived within the boundaries of Copley-Fairlawn. They lived in Akron public housing.

Instead it was Williams-Bolar's dad who lived in Copley-Fairlawn. Which meant she should have paid about $30,500 in tuition. So she and Daddy faked the kids' residency, using his address. He's been charged in the case too, by the way.

The interwebs outrage is partly on behalf of the girls, who were able to attend a substantially better school because of Mom and Grandpa's deceit. I can understand that. As a mother and an American, I think we need to work on our schools big time. There's no excuse for the huge gap between achievement scores in poor districts vs. rich districts. There's no excuse for parents struggling to afford school taxes in one area and still having to give their kids supplies every day while kids in another district have everything handed to them. This should not be a haves vs. have nots issue.

But I'm getting tired of the "everyone else did it" defense. It's as ludicrous as saying "well, everyone else was driving 75 miles an hour in a 65, so the cop can't give me a ticket for doing it too." Actually, he can. Because you were still breaking the law, and you happened to get caught. No one held a gun to your head.

I feel Williams-Bolar's pain. I would love to send my daughter to the high school five minutes from my house with smaller class sizes rather than the bigger one 20 minutes away. But I can't without doing what she could have done to get her kids into Copley-Fairlawn: move or pay tuition. I can't afford either of those options. I'm sucking it up because being an American gives me the right to strive for the best, not the automatic right to the best.

This is where community activism, political activism, are crucial. We, as parents, have a responsibility to fight for our kids' rights to an education. We belong at school board meetings and writing letters to our Congressmen. But we also have a responsibility to our kids to be good community stewards. That means following legal channels to get them that education.

Like signing over custody to someone who lives in the district. Or moving in with her dad permanently because he, once again, lived in the district. Or working six jobs to pay tuition in the better district. Or staying where she was, with the kids where they were, and supplementing their education with as much mom know-how as possible.

I won't ignore the charges of racism in this case. If other people have indeed committed this crime, they need to be punished too. But make no mistake, that shouldn't get Williams-Bolar off either. She defrauded a district out of $30,000. Ten days in jail sounds about right.

Will you sign her petition?

 

Image via KB35/Flickr