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Ohio Mom Jailed for Lying About Kids' School Residency

Jan 26, 2011 – 2:08 PM
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Lisa Flam

Lisa Flam Contributor

How far would you go to get your children into a better public school? The best intentions of one Ohio woman landed her in jail.

In a highly unusual case, Kelley Williams-Bolar, a single mother who lived in Akron public housing, was convicted of lying about her residency in order to send her two daughters to a highly ranked school. Her sentence, which inflamed emotions in the community, was 10 days in jail, according to reports, and is due to end this week.

"It's overwhelming. I'm exhausted," she told ABC News. "I did this for them, so there it is. I did this for them."

Four years ago, Williams-Bolar, 40, sent her girls, now 12 and 16, to the Copley-Fairlawn school district that was outside her Akron district of residence, reports said. Her father lives in the Copley-Fairlawn district, and she said she lived with him part-time after her home was burglarized and she wanted her children safe.

"When my home got broken into, I felt it was my duty to do something else," Williams-Bolar said, according to ABC.

But the district accused the aspiring teacher of lying about her address, falsifying records and having her father file false court papers to circumvent the rules, ABC said. The school asked her to repay $30,000 in tuition, saying her daughters were getting a quality education without paying taxes to contribute to the cost. She refused and was indicted.

A jury convicted her Jan. 15 of two counts of tampering with records, and she was sentenced three days later, the Akron Beacon Journal reported. She was ordered to begin the sentence immediately and was taken from the courtroom sobbing loudly, the newspaper said.

Before she was sentenced, she told the judge "there was no intention at all" to deceive the school, the Beacon Journal reported, and she pleaded to be spared jail time.

Her father, Edward Williams, 64, went on trial with his daughter, but the jury deadlocked on the charge of grand theft, the paper said.

In a jailhouse interview with the paper last week, Williams-Bolar said she'd do it again if she had to.

"If I had the opportunity, if I had to do it all over again, would I have done it?" she said. After pausing, she answered: "I would have done it again. But I would have been more detailed. ... I think they wanted to make an example of me."

Presiding Judge Patricia Cosgrove seemed to agree.

"I felt that some punishment or deterrent was needed for other individuals who might think to defraud the various school districts," she said, according to ABC.

The school district spent about $6,000 to bring Williams-Bolar to trial, a sum that included hiring a private investigator to follow her and her children, Newschannel5 reported.

Copley-Fairlawn Superintendent Brian Poe said the district has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars because of children illegally enrolled in its schools. The cases are usually resolved by parents proving they live in the district, taking their kids out of the schools or paying tuition of about $800 a month, the station reported.

Williams-Bolar's case was the first residency challenge to reach a criminal courtroom, but Poe said it was to send a message. "If you're paying taxes on a home here ... those dollars need to stay home with our students," Poe said, according to the station.

The sentence puts Williams-Bolar's teaching career at risk. She is close to graduating with an education degree from the University of Akron and works as a special needs teaching assistant at a high school, the Beacon Journal reported.

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"I'm not going to give up on my education," said Williams-Bolar, who plans to appeal the conviction.

But the judge said as of now, she can't become a teacher.

"Because of the felony conviction, you will not be allowed to get your teaching degree under Ohio law as it stands today," the judge said. "The court's taking into consideration that is also a punishment that you will have to serve."

From jail, Williams-Bolar has been talking by phone to her girls, who no longer go to the Copley-Fairlawn schools and have been staying with their grandfather.

She told the Beacon Journal: "I'm upset because I have never been away from my family."
Filed under: Nation, Crime
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