Ohio governor John Kasich has reduced the charges against Kelly Williams-Bolar, of Akron, who had been jailed for using her father's address to enroll her children in a neighboring school district (See Black Mom Jailed For Sending Kids to White School).
Williams-Bolar had served 9 days in jail and risked being denied a teaching credential, for which she had been studying at the time of the conviction. Kasich reduced the convictions to two misdemeanors, saying the original penalty was excessive, in spite of a unanimous parole board ruling against leniency (from the Cleveland Plain Dealer).
Williams-Bolar’s attorney is hailing the move has a victory, suggesting that it will allow her to keep her teaching aid job and possibly clear her name in the future. Yet she must still report for probation, serve 80 hours of community service, work full-time, not take any drugs or alcohol, and pay the cost of her prosecution (from tonight’s Pacifica Evening News). The parole board’s conditions include frequent random urinalysis testing for drugs, as well as submission of DNA.
This hardly sounds like a victory for a single mother struggling to get by in a low-paying job. Teaching aid jobs provide barely enough income for a single person to survive, yet Williams-Bolar must also provide for her children, pay court costs and do community service in her spare time. Furthermore, she was convicted of “stealing” educational services, not drug or alcohol offenses. Thus, it seems particularly oppressive, paternalistic and judgmental of her parenting ability to tack on the drug and alcohol requirements.
Ultimately, though, Williams-Bolar should not have received any punishment at all. Schools receive the bulk of their funding from property taxes, yet renters and homeless people, whose children are entitled to attend public schools, do not contribute any property taxes toward the school systems. Williams-Bolar was in fact homeless at the time of the “crime,” alternately couch surfing at her father’s house and at a friend’s apartment. She was punished because of her daughter’s skin color and poverty, both of which were seen by school district officials as liabilities that might have brought down their test scores or scared affluent parents.