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September 7, 2011 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Kelly Williams-Bolar, an Akron, Ohio mother convicted of felonies after forging records in 2006-2007 so that her children could attend a better school, was recently denied a pardon recommendation by an eight member parole board, by a vote of 8 to zero. Today Republican Governor John Kasich overruled the board, using executive clemency powers to lessen the conviction from two felonies to two first-degree misdemeanors. "No one should interpret this as a pass -- it's a second chance," Kasich said in a press release.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer: "The 41-year-old served nine days in jail in January after being convicted of the felony charges of tampering with records for lying on school enrollment forms and free lunch applications in 2006 and 2007."

USA Today: David Singleton, Williams-Bolar's lawyer, said she was thankful to supporters of two grass-roots organizations - Change.org and ColorOfChange.org - that pushed people from around the country to telephone Kasich's office Tuesday to urge him to pardon Williams-Bolar. "Kelley is overjoyed about the governor's decision," Singleton said in a statement.
posted by cashman (31 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good news! Now if they could do something about not actively destroying the public education system in favor of privatized schooling...
posted by darkstar at 2:24 PM on September 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


Maybe they should make the schools better.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:28 PM on September 7, 2011


Does he also have the power to fire the parole board? Because, that ought to be step two.
posted by absalom at 2:32 PM on September 7, 2011 [11 favorites]


Today Republican Governor John Kasich overruled the board, using executive clemency powers to lessen the conviction from two felonies to two first-degree misdemeanors.

With a rational approach to dealing people who are found guilty in situations like this, I can only come to one conclusion; Kasich has no intention of ever gaining the Republican nomination for president.
posted by quin at 2:33 PM on September 7, 2011 [41 favorites]


Yay for second chances!
posted by item at 2:34 PM on September 7, 2011


The long, very narrow tail of political kindness swung the right way for once - by a republican no less.
Good for Kasich!
posted by lalochezia at 2:35 PM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think a slap-on-the-wrist and a knighthood are in order.*


* or whatever the american equivalent is.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:39 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


This seems like a good compromise, to me.

I live here. I graduated from the Akron schools, thank you very much, and they are not so bad that anybody is "forced" to commit fraud to go elsewhere. If home was unsafe, then they could have found legal ways of working around that, but honestly, around here, violence and such involving kids (or anybody who hasn't deliberately involved themselves in bad shit) is incredibly rare. I have some real issues with this woman's level of honesty about the whole thing. It still does not sound to me like she's being particularly truthful.

People who don't live here read the story and think Akron is some kind of urban nightmare. I don't necessarily want my packages left on my front stoop, in my neighborhood, but I'm not worried about my safety, just about stupid kids who don't have enough to do with themselves. The schools aren't the most fantastic ever, but you know, they didn't doom me to a life of misery and poverty. I had some fantastic teachers, and our classes were not straight out of the movie depictions of horrible schools, and I was not going to the best part of this district.

But felonies were probably pushing it. Hopefully this will be a good demonstration that it needs to be against the law and there needs to be a consequence, but it doesn't need to be that severe. (Although I still don't want someone with that attitude towards honesty teaching.)

While Ohio does have huge problems with school funding--not to mention things like SB5, NO ON 2 if you vote here please--I think that treating that like it's an excuse for this kind of lying and cheating the system doesn't fly, with me. This wasn't about a failure of the schools, this was about one woman who committed deliberate fraud and got caught.
posted by gracedissolved at 2:42 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


With a rational approach to dealing people who are found guilty in situations like this, I can only come to one conclusion; Kasich has no intention of ever gaining the Republican nomination for president.

Would you say he's no true Republican?
posted by codswallop at 2:47 PM on September 7, 2011


Would you say he's no true Republican?

This much is for sure - with a name like Kasich, he's no true Scotsman.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:01 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


This wasn't about a failure of the schools, this was about one woman who committed deliberate fraud and got caught.

Was your takeaway from Les Mis that Jean Valjean got off too easy? I mean, come on, jail time? A *felony*? Besides pure fucking legalist sadism, what is the point of that? How is society or that individual better off for that sentence? Shit, we're talking about a practice that at a lot of schools is tacitly or not so tacitly encouraged by on site administrators.
posted by absalom at 3:02 PM on September 7, 2011 [14 favorites]


This wasn't about a failure of the schools, this was about one woman who committed deliberate fraud and got caught.

Eponysterical.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 3:06 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Was your takeaway from Les Mis that Jean Valjean got off too easy?

I really love the word "Javertian" to describe this kind of mindset.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:39 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is actually well in line with Kasich being Republican. She's a victim of lack of school choice, you see?
posted by charred husk at 3:52 PM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


But felonies were probably pushing it.

Probably. Maybe. Perhaps. They might have been a little bit… not totally, but somewhat.

I mean, I guess.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:19 PM on September 7, 2011


Just to preserve what a nasty little case this is:
In their report, parole board members also say, "Ms. Williams-Bolar demonstrated a pattern of deceitful behavior, both before and after her criminal indictment. Moreover, post indictment and conviction behavior that was presented at the clemency hearing demonstrate that she continued this same pattern of conduct and deceitfulness."

The report notes that at the time of her clemency hearing Williams-Bolar claimed to live at one address, but was using another one on her driver's license.

Williams-Bolar also told parole board members that her conviction would hurt her ability to complete her college education and afterward get a teaching job.

But the parole board addressed that in detail, saying, "The Board also finds that the argument that Ms. Williams-Bolar should be granted a pardon due to the fact that her conviction will preclude her from becoming a teacher is not well-taken. Ms. Williams-Bolar is nowhere near to obtaining a college degree in any discipline, let alone in education or early childhood development. The Board does not find it appropriate to recommend a pardon based on a goal that appears unlikely to be sincerely pursued."

Regarding the nine day sentence that has outraged her supporters, the parole board further concluded, "The sentence of a brief stay in jail and community control is not disparate or disproportionate.

"Finally, the board finds that Ms. Williams-Bolar needs to demonstrate compliance with the court's sentence, community supervision, and a substantial period of time in the community, without similar behavior, prior to clemency being considered. At this point in time, Ms. Williams-Bolar is a wholly undeserving candidate for any type of clemency," the report concludes.
In addition to the heinous crime of lying to get her kids in a better school crime, she *failed* to update the address on her driver's license... maybe the felonies weren't "pushing it" after all.
posted by ennui.bz at 6:21 PM on September 7, 2011


This just in:
Most non-teabagger Republicans north of the Mason-Dixon line feel compelled by the electorate not to be complete douchebags all of the time.

Meanwhile, this is what Tea baggers in the South are doing with their spare time...
posted by markkraft at 7:12 PM on September 7, 2011


Seriously? Jean Valjean? Can you really not tell the difference between somebody who steals to feed their sister's starving kids and somebody who steals because their kids want a new TV and they can't afford it? The Akron Public Schools have a serious money problem, but aside from that, are not markedly worse than many of the similarly-poor suburban schools around here. Fewer foreign languages at some of the high schools, but on the other hand, they start them earlier, so that kind of balances out.

Her kids were not starving. They were not unsafe. She lied about her address, not by accident, but deliberately to get her kids something she knew they were not entitled to by virtue of where they lived. If she didn't outright lie, she seriously exaggerated the danger her kids were in, how close she was to finishing her degree that this would derail her career prospects, all of it to try to get strangers to come to her rescue because those of us who're *here* can see how ridiculous that notion is. And everybody who doesn't live here just assumes things are horrific because one person--who again, has already committed fraud once--has told them that they are.

The Akron Public Schools lose out for every parent who does this. That means that the thousands of kids whose families really are poor and don't have families in better-off suburbs lose out. Every little bit of funding that goes away, the schools get a little less safe, a little less academically effective. She's not just stealing to get luxuries for her kids, she's stealing from the people who're really starving, and you want to give her a medal.

I stand by the idea that a felony is more than it should be. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be a crime. People like her are hurting the ones who really need the help.
posted by gracedissolved at 7:26 PM on September 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


The Akron Public Schools lose out for every parent who does this.

Really, I would think that the property taxes still go to the local school and the school that would be missing out is the one being funded by taxes which she didn't pay because she didn't live there.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 8:44 PM on September 7, 2011


Oh, but it gets better. One of my best friends has had two autistic kids in the Copley school district. The more profoundly autistic of the two still goes there. This school district is perfectly happy to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars fighting her on things they are legally required to provide for her child. Probably into the hundreds of thousands by the time you add up the number of times she's had to avail herself of the systems put in place to correct such failings!

Yet the district is all HURRAH LET'S IMMEDIATELY GET OFF OUR ASSES the second they get a chance to smack down this other woman. The double standard here is appalling and from my vantage point, has a racial component as well.

If you really want to fix the public schools here in Ohio, divorce their funding from property taxes. I live in probably the nicest neighborhood in the city of Cleveland and it would be child abuse to send a kid to our local high school. Forget the appalling graduation rates -- a friend who taught art there reported back that high school seniors in her art class didn't even know how to use rulers. That is just so beyond wrong I have not the words.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:05 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


How is it surprising at all that a Republican governor does this? It fits perfectly with the desire to destroy the public school system and replace it with vouchered chartered whatever because CHOICE!
posted by Rat Spatula at 9:20 PM on September 7, 2011


Grace, I also grew up fairly poor in Akron (North '94) and, more or less, share your views on life in Akron and APS as you've expressed them. That said, your beef with this woman seems to be mostly because it sullies the reputation of APS, and I think that's sort of besides the point and more the media's doing. I had great experiences at school, and I had terrible experiences in school. I had great teachers and terrible teachers (My history teacher during my senior year frequently would not even come into the classroom until the period was halfway over, and the final exam he prepared was a 100-question true/false test that he told us straightaway had 88 true statements and 12 false ones. His only attempt at quality control was to warn us he would fail anyone who marked every answer "true" to get the 88.)

But generally, I think my positive APS experiences has more to with self-motivation and good parenting than anything the schools did for me. IMO, even the worst schools in the country can nominally "succeed" with individual students because what you get out of it is largely tied to what you put into it. The problem is, a lot of kids aren't lucky to have good parents and/or a modicum of innate intellectual curiosity, and schools like those in APS probably will not help them much.

I'm a staunch supporter of public schools and think the solution is to fix public schools rather than diverting money from them for "vouchers" for private schools, leaving the public schools to twist in the wind. But until they are fixed, it's hard for me to begrudge someone who doesn't feel like our schools are doing the job well enough, and lying to do something about it rather than saying, "I'm not entitled to better based on where I live, and who am I to piss on Akron Public Schools...they're not THAT bad!"
posted by mreleganza at 2:14 AM on September 8, 2011


Can you really not tell the difference between somebody who steals to feed their sister's starving kids and somebody who steals because their kids want a new TV and they can't afford it?

Yes, I can. Can you tell the difference between a necessity and a luxury? Tell me true, do you consider education as a necessity for life (bread) or as a luxury (TV).
posted by absalom at 6:46 AM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not like this woman is a criminal mastermind who came up with a brilliant scheme that nobody had ever heard of before. In some places, it's something of a quietly accepted norm.

My mother lied about where we lived, in NYC, so I could go to elementary school in a different district (that we lived a block away from). The district that we lived in was clearly gerrymandered to contain lower-income and immigrant families, and was deprived of resources given to the larger district. At the time, it was not uncommon for parents to lie in order to get their child into a better school, many schools overlooked the practice.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 7:11 AM on September 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Er, "school, and many." All that learnin', and I still forget to use the preview button.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 7:12 AM on September 8, 2011


Having seen what the idea of educational choice is doing in practice to the integrity of the public school system, I don't give a damn about school choice. "School choice" is what led to school segregation in the first place, and now it's predictably leading right back to it.

The obligations and duties of civil society are not optional.

While I don't think this woman should do jail time, and I'm always glad to see some restraint being used when it comes to penalties for low impact, non-violent crimes, but I don't think she should get her way, either.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:18 AM on September 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Absalom, as I've said before, I am a graduate of the Akron Public Schools. Education is *absolutely* a necessity. Education *in Copley* is not a necessity to anybody who lives here. Her kids were not in danger of not being able to go to school at any point in this entire process. They were not in danger of not being able to learn to read, not being able to take algebra, not being able to go to college. They were possibly in danger of having a smaller selection of electives, less impressive extracurriculars, and poorer classmates. There are certainly reasons to prefer a better-off school district, but it isn't a necessity.
posted by gracedissolved at 7:50 AM on September 8, 2011


The problem is that there are "better-off school districts" in the first place.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:00 AM on September 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


In a place like San Francisco you can apply to any school in any neighborhood & you can list up to ten schools on your application. If you do the pre-application school tours, you begin to see how it's not just tax funding that affects the quality of the schools. All SFUSD schools get the same amount of money from the district. However, if the school is in a middle/upper-middle/upper-class neighborhood, there are going to be a lot of extra programs that are paid for by parent fundraising.

My son got into a public school that is in an upper middle class neighborhood that is a 20 minute drive from our house. Parents are expected to donate $200 + per year to cover the cost of programs not paid for by the school district - this is paying for extra PE classes, a music teacher, and gardening classes. This does not include all of the other fundraising events throughout the year that parents are expected to get involved in.

There is a parent who is working with the special ed teachers to create a sensory gym for the kids with SPD & ASD. This is not unusual, as there are a lot of stay-at-home parents who devote a huge chunk of their time & energy to working around the school.

Additionally, these are the after school classes available for kindergarten age kids: mandarin, spanish, tae kwon do, pre-engineering with LEGO, school farm, jewelry making, academic chess. BTW, this is in addition to the regular after school program.

On the other side of town, where families are poorer, two parents have to work & there is no extra time or money to contribute, the elementary schools don't have these programs. Period. It's not fair, but what can you do? This is San Francisco, we have "school choice", so you try to get your kid into one of the schools on the wealthier side of town. If you're lucky, and all the available slots aren't filled by kids who live in the nearby neighborhood, you might get into one of the good schools. For the really in-demand schools there is a ratio of ~100+ applicants/ 66 available seats (one school has a ratio that is IIRC 127/66), so the odds aren't that great. If you don't get in to one of the schools of your choice during any of the three application rounds, your kid is stuck with the crappy school near your house.

I wouldn't blame someone for using the address of a relative in a better part of town to increase the odds of their child getting into one of the good schools. It's not right, but it's totally understandable.
posted by echolalia67 at 9:25 AM on September 8, 2011


If you do the pre-application school tours, you begin to see how it's not just tax funding that affects the quality of the schools.

echolalia67: I agree on the whole, but doesn't it still come down to a matter of the taxes spent, in the end? If the US education system generally is no longer funded sufficiently to provide educational enrichment opportunities without depending on community fundraising (which, as you note, will inevitably tend to privilege schools with student communities from wealthier backgrounds), then this results in a de facto discriminatory policy in terms of the quality of public education, which is illegal. Schools should not be in the business of fundraising, period. They shouldn't have to be. They should be fully-funded and provide a consistent quality of education across all state/district/county lines. Period.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:37 AM on September 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


saulgoodman, agreed. I don't like the idea that my kid is getting good opportunities simply because we lucked out in the school lottery. All kids deserve these types of programs. I don't bitch about the amount of money I spend on taxes; I bitch about how it's spent, and the fact that the money is not going to the schools is a big one for me.
posted by echolalia67 at 9:59 AM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


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