Friday, January 28, 2011

Mother Goes to Jail, Kids Go to Inferior School

An Akron mother was sentenced to jail for attempting to enroll her children in a better school. She is divorced, lives in public housing as too many divorced and single mothers do. According to Ohio laws governing school enrollment, her children should have been enrolled in the school that served the area where she resided. This school has a 76 percent graduation rate and met only 4 of the 26 standards on the Ohio Department of Education Report Card.

I have some confusion. I thought it was the father, but others have said the grandfather resides in the suburbs. The school district in his area has a 98 percent graduation rate. It meets 26 of the 26 standards. Needless to say the Akron District school that served the mother's area was primarily serving a black demographic. The Copely-Fairlawn School district that provided education for her husband's area boasted a student body that was 75 percent white students.

The mother was sentenced to five years in prison with all suspended except for 10 days. She must serve 80 hours of community service and is on probation for three years. She had been working as a teacher's aide at the high school in Akron and was 12 credits shy of earning her teaching degree at the University of Akron. Now, because of this felony conviction the mother will not be allowed to teach school in Ohio.

The father or grandfather is not touched by all of this, yet he was just as involved as the mother. And they both thought that since the children lived at least part time at the suburban address that they were not doing anything illegal. In fact alot of people do this and get away with it. In fact this mother Ms. Williams-Bolar is the only one prosecuted for this 'crime.'

I understand the schools must maintain order. Must have limitations and laws governing enrollment. Yet they just put a woman in jail, ruined her chance for a better life and to practice the profession for which she is training because she tried to get a reasonable education for her children.

She was fighting for her children.

The school was fighting to enforce a very un-American bureauecratic administration. America is founded on trying to have a better life for our kids. We all know education is the bedrock of such a move out of poverty and violence and yet the very institution that says it is sworn to education our children filed charges against the mother and blocked her children's access to a better education.

Does the school system work to make all educational institutions equal? Apparently not or not effectively and NOT in time to help Ms. Williams-Bolar's children.

Recently several of us have gotten together on my facebook page and discussed abortion rights, pro-choice, pro-life, etc. And the one thing some of us keep bumping up against is the quality of the life of the child. Whether pro-life or pro-choice, we agree that we ignore the child after it is born. If people are against a mother's choice and they want to save the baby at all costs -- then why do they abandon it after it is born? Why isn't there a system to care for and nurture and love that child after it is born? I suppose this question is more strongly in my thoughts after a recent news story about a mother who left her 7 month old son with a babysitter for several days. Evidently something she has done quite often. The babysitter said she took a nap. Awoke and couldn't find the baby. It was found in a picnic cooler which was placed outside of the home. The baby was dead. I don't want to let my imagination dwell on what that baby went through in those seven months. Seven months of torture or a quick abortion?

I worked for a short time at a children's services agency that took care of among other things abused and neglected children. A county agency. I worked in the office and when they picked up a child it sometimes fell to me to keep an eye on the children while paperwork was being filed and caseworkers were dealing with tearful and angry parents. That was more than 30 years ago and I can still see this beauiful little four-year-old boy. He had such blue eyes, coffee latte skin and such sorrow and confusion. He also had lacerations and abrasions where he'd been tied up. Around his neck, his wrists and his ankles. He had cigarette burns on his face, on his scalp, his neck, his shoulders, his belly, his back, his buttocks, his genitals, his inner thighs, behind his knees and inner elbows, on the bottoms of his feet.... I grieve for that child who stood silent in my office. His eyes so full of pain I couldn't bear it.

Here we have a responsible mother who is working hard to better herself, get out of the housing development she was cast into after her divorce and at the same get her children the best education she can. Now I know doubts creep in. Maybe this woman was not Mother Teresa. Maybe she has dark secrets and maybe she isn't a great person. And you can wonder why she is divorced. But is that really important? And who are we to judge?

She didn't lie. Her children do live with their grandfather or father and they live with her. Someone ventured the opinion that she was probably taken to court because she fought the administration so hard....

What would you do if you could get your children into a clean, violence free suburban school or keep them in a dirty, below par -- WAY below expectations -- school plagued with all of the inner city drugs, violence, and risks?

Why aren't we stepping up to stand beside Ms. Williams-Bolar of Akron, Ohio? Is it because she is black? Is it because she is an example and we support the school red tape rather than a quality education for her children? Is she not beautiful enough? White enough? Educated enough? Rich enough for us to care about what happens to her and her family?

If she was trying to abort her babies there would have been marching and picketing and pamphlets sent and hate mail. Some feminist women might have rallied around her to protect her right to end the life of her baby. But she wasn't doing any of that. Ms. Williams-Bolar was stepping up and fighting for an education for her children. She wasn't just making do. She was attempting to make her life better. It is after all what the Conservative Right say she should do. It is what the Liberal Left encouarge her to do.

Yet there is an outcry against supporting those who live in poverty. Somehow it is their fault that they are not rich, powerful, beautiful, successful, healthy and contributing to the community. There is a movement to stop supporting people like Ms. Williams-Bolar in her time of need. Some do not want to give her hand outs. They say she should make her own way. And that's exactly what she's been doing. She isn't alot different than a popular author -- Rowlings is her name I believe. Might have heard of her little series of Harry Potter books....

A felony? Really?

What a shame if all of the people in Akron enrolled their children in a better school system instead of allowing their government to keep them prisoner in an underfunctioning sham of a school.

Is this really what America is all about? The more I think about this situation and the way we uphold institutions that ravish our powerless population, I am ashamed and enraged. And I want to know what I can do to eliminate the ineffective 'welfare' system. The ridiculous excuse for public education. The employment/unemployment training for new jobs (McDonald's here I come).... How ridiculous!

How long do we look the other way and wonder why so many gangs are forming and people are carrying guns and violence is up? How long do you think the anger can continue to build before it bursts out in carnage and distruction? How long can we imprison mothers who fight the rules and regulations and institutions that destroy their children why proclaiming that they are helping them....

For want of a 'proper' residency form according to the school's very narrow definition, this woman goes to jail and her children are confined to a school that WILL DO THEM HARM.

I know what I would do for my children. What will we do for Ms. Williams-Bolars? And all of the others who are working hard to make a better life for their children? You realize that we are all one job loss, one catastropic illness, one divorce away from being in her shoes....


Sue Rutford said...

While I completely agree with you that this is a ridiculous use of the courts and that it appears they are targeting this mom (and the logical assumption is because she's black), the news stories I have read say that it's Ms. Williams-Bolar's father, not the children's father, who lives in the district, and he was also prosecuted in this case. I didn't see any mention of the ex-husband/children's father. It's still a travesty, but important to get the facts right.

wlstarn said...

I absolutely agree with you. It all goes back to the culture/class war currently being waged in this country. People who are laid off and cannot find another job are labeled lazy and told they do not need unemployment benefits, although the previous employer paid for them. The people at the top want it all and don't care a whit for the rest of us, adults, kids or whatever.
I'm currently working retail (with a Master's degree) because age discrimination is alive and well in this part of the country. I fear I may be working until I am 85 to make ends meet.

Rachel said...

Well said! Like you I have been thinking a lot about this case. It has so many layers that are complicated yet simple. A mother attempting to do the best for her kids. Thanks for the additional facts. I didn't know her husband lived in the district, now I really don't understand how this go so out of hand. I hope my tongue doesn't poke a hole in my cheek. The County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh, has a lot to answer too.

Anonymous said...

The only light at the end of this very dark tunnel is that the father might have custody of the children and they can now legally go to the school they were attending. Which makes the mother even more of a martyr. Thank you for your passionate writing about this crazy situation.

Dawn said...

Sue -- That isn't the way I read it, but that certainly makes more sense than if it were the father involved. Thanks for the correction!

April Sproule said...

Thank you for writing this post. I had not heard about the case. It piqued my interest as I moved my son to another school district when he started kindergarten fourteen years ago. I had a great difference of opinion with the administrative viewpoint of the school that my son was appointed to attend.Fortunately, I was successful in navigating the school system, but I realize that a change of districts is now impossible to do in many areas.Private schools are not an option for many communities nor for many families, and I think that we should have the right to raise and educate our children in the best way that we know possible.