The Cost of a Good Education

One Ohio mother is paying an unfair price

In connection with legislation known as “Black Laws,” Ohio in 1829 evicted black people from the state within 30 days if they did not pay a $500 bond and did not possess certain legal documents. When public education began in Ohio, state lawmakers opposed the use of tax dollars to teach black children because those legislators did not want black families to immigrate there. In 1878, the state authorized school district officials to segregate black students if “(in the officials’) judgment it may be for the advantage of the district to do so.” State courts twice affirmed segregation as constitutional and actually declared that there’s “an… invincible repugnance to… (racial) fellowship” in Ohio.

[SIGNUP]Fast forward to 2011 — specifically to January 18th when Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Patricia Cosgrove sentenced a black hardworking, college-attending, single mother with no criminal record to jail simply for trying to provide a quality education for her daughters, ages 12 and 16. As a result, that judge and County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh turned Kelley Williams-Bolar into a convicted felon who now could be expelled from the University of Akron where she is just a few credit hours short of graduating with a teaching degree, who now could lose her job as a teaching assistant working with special needs children, and who now could be evicted from her public housing apartment. In addition to the 10-day jail sentence, she was placed on two years’ probation, required to do 80 hours of community service, and could be ordered to pay the Copley-Fairlawn school district $30,500 in reimbursement for the two-year cost of educating her daughters.

Ms. Williams-Bolar was convicted of two felony counts of tampering with records after being arrested in November 2009 and charged with falsely using her father’s Copley Township address for her children in August 2006 while she was living in Akron when she enrolled them in a school located in the neighboring, predominantly white, higher-performing Copley-Fairlawn district where they would be guaranteed a quality education.

This conviction occurred despite the fact that there were about 40 similar “residency issue” allegations involving other parents during the very same time that this black mother was being investigated. But as school district officials testified during Ms. Williams-Bolar’s trial, no one else faced criminal prosecution or even civil court action!

Accordingly, the prosecution, the verdict, and the sentencing were not just plain unfair and not just plain inequitable but also were unconstitutional in violation of the sixth amendment (right to an impartial jury), the eighth amendment (protection from cruel and unusual punishment), and the 14th amendment (right to citizenship thereby overturning the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford decision, right to equal protection as later declared in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, and right to substantive and procedural due process).

Therefore, every black, white, brown, and yellow American who opposes injustice and supports equal educational opportunity for everyone should demand that Ohio governor John Kasich immediately and unconditionally pardon Ms. Williams-Bolar because, consistent with Ohio law, there are “reasonable grounds to believe that granting a pardon … would further the interests of justice and be consistent with the welfare and security of society.” For more information about how to directly contact the governor and other pertinent Ohio officials, you visit and click on the Action Alert section.