It was a dreary and rainy Tuesday morning in Georgia. I decided to do a quick check-in Twitter
before heading off to my new gig as an Academic Advisor. The first mention I saw was from @lioncaller, one of my faithful blog subscribers:
"Did you you see this? black mom punished (harshly) for sending kids to dad's district. http://bit.ly/e2eOwK#BlackEd
I immediately thought the worst: The mom received a hefty fine and some community service. To say I was wrong is an understatement. Kelly Williams-Bolar, a divorced, single mom of two was sentenced to 10 days in jail, placed on probation, and charged with a felony. Ironically, Ms. Williams-Bolars is a current college student pursuing a teaching degree. She will not be eligible for a teaching license in the state of Ohio due to the felony conviction.
As a single parent, I can honestly say that I would have done the exact same thing if I were in Williams-Bolars shoes. The exact same thing, without giving the consequences a second thought. Reading through Boyce Watkins' blog, I could not help but think that my mother was Williams-Bolars in the early 80s and 90s, the only difference is that she/we never got caught and no one went to jail. Our family did something very similar. We (my sister and all of my cousins) attended schools within our district, but not those to which we were assigned. As a kid, I did not understand why my parents (and grandparents) made that decision but as I got older, it became crystal clear: The better schools were located in the suburbs. And still are, no matter which city you visit. That meant riding the school bus approximately 1 hour each way until I graduated from high school. Yeah, education was/is that serious in my family. And I inherited that seriousness; however, my kids are in a slightly different situation in that I purchased a home in the suburbs. No false address necessary. But, what if we were still living in 'tha hood' and I needed to ensure they received a top-notch public (Code for FREE) education? What choice(s) would I have as a single parent, employed part-time, and juggling a mortgage and all the responsibilities that come with being a homeowner? Never mind the student loan debt looming at the end of the forbearance, credit card bills, unpaid emergency bills, or healthcare as we poor folks call it. Should I be willing to take the same risk as Williams-Bolar, especially now that someone has actually been caught in the act?
Sure, falsifying student information is illegal and sends the wrong message to our children, but Williams-Bolar obviously realized that the ends justified the means: Her kids would receive a quality education and be prepared for college (and all things beyond). Deceiving the school district was the only (cost-free) way Williams-Bolar could ensure that her children's educational 'civil rights' were protected, right? How many talking-heads have said that a good education is a civil right? Or is that simply lip-service to get their piece of the billion dollar education pie? Today is Wednesday and I am still waiting for someone, anyone, in education to come to the defense of this mother and ask the important question: Why was/is deceiving the school district the only way to ensure that Black/Brown and low-income kids receive a quality education?
If I was a school-aged kid, living in Ohio today, my mamma would be in jail. And I know she wouldn't be the only parent who chose to fight for her kids' 'civil rights.' By the way, the battle for separate and equal school facilities was fought and won in 1954. Why are some of us still fighting?