felony indictment of a parent by public school police

An astounding story  about an Ohio mom whose so-called crime was having her children stay with their grandfather and attend the better schools in his area, about 2 miles away.

The police arm of our school system is flexing its muscle.  This parent is a good parent and schools are not a prison but a social service we taxpayers all chip in to provide for our kids.  As money gets tighter, will we be facing more of this criminalization of parents?

From a post at Criminal Justice (has a petition up for signatures): 

"An Ohio mother of two was sentenced to 10 days in jail and placed on three years probation after sending her kids to a school district in which they did not live. Kelly Williams-Bolar was sentenced by Judge Patricia Cosgrove on Tuesday and will begin serving her sentence immediately. The jury deliberated for seven hours and the courtroom was packed as the sentence was handed down. She was convicted on two counts of tampering with court records after registering her two girls as living with Williams Bolar's father when they actually lived with her. The family lived in the housing projects in Akron, Ohio, and the father’s address was in nearby Copley Township. Additionally, Williams-Bolar’s father, Edward L. Williams, was charged with a fourth-degree felony of grand theft, in which he and his daughter are charged with defrauding the school system for two years of educational services for their girls. The court determined that sending their children to the wrong school was worth $30,500 in tuition. - Dr. Boyce Watkins                    
That any parent could have any police action whatsoever directed against them by a public social service for having her children spend time with their grandfather and attend the school in his district is appalling.

It is a good thing for children to visit their grandfather, who lived about 2 miles away.  And if the kids attend the school near him, that should be fine.  In fact, if the school is almost all white, well, even better.  In this case, a family is integrating by choice. This is not a crime.

I am no expert on funding of schools.  But )several things are clear from this case:
  • Ohio has a broken and unequal system of funding that is criminal in effect
  • Do these parents from a wealthier area who get all this extra financial funding, pay more for state colleges?  
  • Do wealthier districts take standardized tests adjusted for higher performers?  
  • Are the families in these wealthy districts means-tested for school access?  
  • What did those unnecessary 10 days of jail cost Ohio? 
  • For that matter, the entire court case brought against her: what did that cost?  
More importantly, if education is an investment, then why does she owe anything?  She may have saved the state money by having her kids get an education; kids have a stronger social base by staying with a grandfather.  And she completed her schooling.  We will all benefit from her work and her daughter's as well.

Shifting schools, if we had 21st century voluntary community learning centers, could be done more often.  It requires routine administrative flexibility, mediation and coordination, skills our system will never even try to master since they can use their police arm to maintain their rigid production line mentality.  Lots of broken state funding mechanisms help that along, as we have seen and these broken systems reflect the fact that families are locked out of this system:  it is driven entirely from the top.

Compulsory attendance laws have created a system that is not only unresponsive to the needs of their communities but this policy has given schools a police arm that is unacceptable in a social service in a democratic country.  We will never have the schools we want and need unless all parents begin to understand compulsory attendance laws as homeschoolers have had to do.

We should not empower an institution like the schools with policing families.  We already have social service agencies in every state that can check on families who may be abusive or neglectful at any time.  Any family anywhere can be investigated.  That system has its issues but it can stand as a check on families and a protector of children.  But having schools police families makes an adversary of the very people who should be allies in a social service that is about learning.

Compulsory attendance laws give the schools police power over families and if your only tool is a hammer, everything you see is a nail (Twain)  The system is broken for a lot of people, times are hard, and their only tool is a hammer: families, watch out.

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