Elyssa Hilton Dr. Cross English Composition II 031 April 1, 2011 Breaking the Law is Breaking the Law, No Matter What the Reason Kelley Williams-Bolar is a single mother of two living in subsidized housing in Akron. She is currently working in the Akron school district as a teacher’s aide while she goes to school to get her teaching certificate. She has recently been convicted of tampering with records. This conviction is considered a third degree felony; therefore in the state of Ohio she cannot receive a teaching certificate. She was sentenced to ten days in jail, two years probation and 80 hours of community service. Williams-Bolar, as well as the Reverend Al Sharpton and her supporters are saying the punishment didn’t fit the crime. They are claiming she only wanted what was best for her children and that she was discriminated against. I say, when you look at the facts of the case there is no way that position holds water. Breaking the law is breaking the law. When convicted of a crime, you take responsibility for your actions and deal with the punishment that has been delegated to such crime. There is no discrimination in this case and she had legal ways to do the best for her children. Let’s look at the case and what happened. Williams-Bolar’s father, Edward Williams, lives on Black Pond Drive in Copley. In 2006 Williams-Bolar enrolled her daughters in the Copley-Fairlawn school district; she used her father’s address and claimed they lived with him. During this same time period she told the
Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority they lived with her in Akron. They can’t live in both places, so one of these was obviously a lie. In addition, she lied about her income in order to enroll her daughters in the free lunch program (Piepho). In early 2007, the school district received multiple reports stating that the girls did not live in Copley. They had been seen getting driven to and from the bus stop that was walking distance from the Black Pond address. The district contacted Williams-Bolar, after this interaction she changed the address on her driver’s license to her father’s. As with any report of this type, the school district conducted an investigation. The findings of the investigation resulted in a residency hearing in October of 2007. The hearing was at the district offices, both Williams-Bolar and her father attended. The result of the hearing was the determination that the girls did in fact live with their mother in her subsidized housing in Akron (Meyer). The Copley Fairlawn district sent a tuition bill to Williams-Bolar. Williams-Bolar and her father claimed they were being harassed by the district and refused to pay tuition due to the fact that it is a public school (Meyer). The district continued to send tuition bills, she wrote deployed on one and returned it. She has never been in the military. Her answer to why she did this was that she was stressed and was feeling pressured and that she does have family members in the military. She wanted them to stop sending her bills. The district was left with no option but to turn the information over to the prosecutor’s office. The case then went to trial and she was found guilty of tampering with records. For her defense, Williams-Bolar has argued many points. She has said that they were spending so much time at her father’s she didn’t see why it was a problem. She has also said
she had concerns about her daughter’s safety. She has said her daughters aren’t latch key kids; she wants them to be safe and educated (O’Malley). Those are the facts of the case. The questions still remain of discrimination, if the punishment fit the crime and should she be allowed to teach. This is not a case of discrimination. Since 2005 there have been 47 other residency cases within the Copley Fairlawn schools. They were all settled out of court with the cooperation of the parents or guardians. Of these 47cases, 29 were black, 14 were white and three were Asian. The Copley district has about 3,200 students enrolled with 14% of these students black (O’Malley). As a parent in the district, I can testify that it is a very diverse district, there are about 30 different nationalities represented and the diversity is one of the reasons we chose the district when we moved here almost five years ago. Williams-Bolar appeared on the Dr. Phil show March 4, 2011. Dr. Phil flat out asked her if she broke the law. Her response was, “Did I use my father’s address. Yes.” Dr. Phil then asked why she did think it was illegal; her response was “No.” She went on to explain that her home had been broken into and her father suggested the kids come to his house after school for their safety. There was another single mother on the Dr. Phil show with Williams-Bolar. She has a set of twins who are currently in tenth grade. She said that when she and her husband divorced, she moved from a nearby district that was primarily white into the Copley district so her children could be part of the diverse population. This shows that she was not prosecuted as a matter of discrimination but as a matter of her refusal to cooperate and continuance to break the law.
Williams-Bolar was convicted of a crime. Sections 287 and 1001 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code make it a crime to (1) knowingly make a false claim upon or against the United States or any department or agency thereof and (2) knowingly and willfully make any false statement to the United States or any department or agency thereof (Perry and Salek). This is what she has been convicted of. Criminal law maintains order by laying down rules, threatening punishment if the rules are not obeyed and carrying out the threat (Davis 730). The crime she was convicted of comes with the possibility of one to five years in prison and $10,000 fine (Meyer). Punishment is an evil satisfying six conditions: there is a body of rules capable of guiding action, there are beings capable of following these rules or not as they choose, there is a procedure for inflicting types of evil upon a person if he does not follow the rules, there are rules connecting failure to follow primary rules with certain penalties, both primary and secondary rules are supposed to be known to the persons subject to them and imposition of the penalty is justified by the personâ€™s not having followed the appropriate rule when he could have (Davis 728). Perhaps this definition is a little severe, but it is the law; this does apply to Williams-Bolar.
As Piepho points out, she did have legal options. She could have moved in with her father; her claim is she wanted to maintain her independence. She did grudgingly admit on Dr. Phil, after being pushed for an answer, that this was an option. Akron has open enrollment; because some of the schools within the district have failed to meet federal benchmarks, people may send their children to another school within the district. This was an option she could have legally used. In addition to open enrollment, Akron has charter schools and school vouchers, since she lived within the lines of an unsuccessful school, she could have taken part in one of these programs (Piepho).
There are financial reasons why schools canâ€™t accept students living outside the district lines. School funding comes from state and local systems. Property taxes are the primary local source of school funding (Sobul and Sullivan 12). With so much of school funding coming from property taxes, some argue that the kids should be allowed in the district because Williams pays taxes within the district. Williams actually hasnâ€™t paid property taxes in over ten years. He has been fighting with the authorities over this for 15 years. He has tried to claim his property as tax exempt saying it is a group home for delinquent, abused and neglected children as well as adult and elderly care. Williams has never been granted the tax exempt status and the county fiscal offices filled a case to begin foreclosure on the property due to alleged real estate tax problems. Williams feels this is the reason they have gone after his daughter (Meyer).
The state of Ohio has formulas they use to determine state aid. These formulas take into account the student poverty level, community wealth and college attainments within the district are a few of the factors. The purpose is to ensure each district has the funding needed to provide proper education for its students (Sobul and Sullivan 13). Part of the state funding is a guaranteed allocation amount. A district like Copley on this guaranty does not receive more money when they receive more students, they receive more expenses. This is the reason for the tuition bills. She could have paid tuition to send her girls to Copley. The total tuition expensed for the two girls over the course of the two years comes to $30,500. Originally there were charges of grand theft attached to this, they were dismissed (Meyer). While some may think the Copley schools are rated better because of the amount of money the district has, the fact is that Akron spends over $3,000 more per student than Copley (Piepho).
Whether or not Williams-Bolar should be allowed to teach is a whole other subject. The judge who sentenced her wrote a letter to the State Board of Education saying that she should be allowed to obtain her certificate. I think there is more to it than just the actual conviction. Williams-Bolar has set the example that breaking the law is ok if you have good intentions. She is still saying she did nothing wrong and refuses to take responsibility for her actions claiming she is stressed and didn’t know what else to do. In a conversation with her father while in jail, they discussed the possibility of a book or movie deal from all this, money could be made and they could each be in the movie (O’Malley). In a conversation with her mother from jail, she said, “I might get me an NBA player. I’m letting everyone know I’m single.” (Meyer) These don’t sound like the words of someone I want teaching my children.
Bottom line, Williams-Bolar broke the law. She was not prosecuted or sent to jail because she wanted better for her children; she falsified documents, engaged in many different acts of deception to four government agencies and continued to do so over a two year period (O’Malley). There are legal options she could have used to provide a safer environment and better rated education for her girls. She was not discriminated against, and the only reason this has been used as an example is because of her refusal to cooperate. She knowingly lied to the government several times and, in my eyes, set a bad example for all children including her own.
Works Cited Davis, Michael. “How to Make the Punishment Fit the Crime”. Ethics. 93.4 (1983): 726-752 Web Meyer, Ed. “Jailhouse Phone Calls are Released/Akron Woman in Copley School Case Talks with Dad About Saga Becoming Book, Movie”. Akron Beacon Journal. Ohio.com. 11 Feb 2011. Web. 3 Mar 2011 ---. “Pair Accused of Lies”. Akron Beacon Journal. Ohio.com. 13 Jan 2011. Web. 2 April 2011 ---. “Surveillance Shown in Residency Trial”. Akron Beacon Journal. 14 Jan 2011. Web. 2 April 2011 O’Malley, Michael. “Did the Punishment Fit the Crime”? Cleveland.com. 13 Feb 2011. Web. 3 Mar 2011 Perry, Laura, and Stephanie Salek. “False Statements and False Claims”. American Criminal Law Review. (2008) Web Piepho, Scott. “Five Inconvenient Facts About the Kelley Williams-Bolar Case”. Fairlawn-Bath Patch. 4 Feb 2011. Web. 3 Mar 2011 Sobul, Mike and Meghan Sullivan. “Property Tax and School Funding”. Report to the Ohio Department of Taxation. Tax.ohio.gov Feb 2010. Web. 2 April 2011