The persecution of Kelley Williams-Bolar has come to an end, it seems, and none too soon. Williams-Bolar is the Akron, Ohio, mother of two who was jailed for nine days earlier this year for claiming her daughters lived with their grandfather so they could attend a safer school. Under nationwide pressure, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has reduced the single mother’s sentence from a felony to a misdemeanor. The lesser sentence means she won’t be disqualified to teach in the state’s public schools, which she is studying to do.
It also looks as if Williams-Bolar won’t have to pay $30,000 in back tuition, either, which is good because—as a teacher’s aide to special-needs children and as a college student herself—she cannot afford it. She has admitted her mistakes (claiming she was on active duty in the military “was horrible,” she concedes) but more than made amends. Other arrangements have been made for her daughters’ education, including use of a voucher for one of the girls to attend a private school.
For this outcome, she—and we—can thank Caitlin Lord, a single mother in Massachusetts who heard of Williams-Bolar’s plight and, through Change.org, asked Kasich to overturn her conviction. Within 24 hours of the posting of Lord’s petition, it went viral, amassing more than 180,000 signatures and winning national publicity.
“Our government rewards bank barons with billions of dollars for illegal and unfair business practices … but a loving, hardworking single mother like Williams-Bolar [had] her entire future erased with the whack of a county court gavel,” Lord said.
The idea that schools now hire private eyes to follow children home—as happened in this case—seems outrageous but is evidently happening more and more. Well-regarded schools in safe neighborhoods spend thousands of tax dollars to ferret out “illegal students,” the Wall Street Journal reports, as parents engage in “boundary hopping” to get their children educated and keep them safe. In at least three other states—Connecticut, Kentucky and Missouri—parents await sentencing for atrocities like Williams-Bolar’s.
“Only in a world where irony is dead,” according to the Journal, “could people not marvel at concerned parents being prosecuted for stealing a free public education for their children.”
In this case, at least, we can be grateful one citizen has fought back—and won.