A ‘criminal’ for wanting a good education for girls

Filed under OPINION

As a parent, what lengths would you take to ensure that your child had an opportunity to achieve the American Dream?

If you love your child as much as I love my two daughters, the limits to your sacrifice are endless.

Marian Wright Edelman once said, “Education is a precondition to survival in America today.”
I believe this to be true. Despite my family’s socio-economic status, I knew that a quality education would blaze a trail to a better life for my daughters and allow them to reach their God-given potential.

I am an ex-felon. However, I did not burglarize or assault anyone. I did not rape or steal. I was convicted for falsifying records about my residency so that my daughters could attend a safer, higher-performing suburban school.

Sadly, wanting the best for my children earned me nine days in prison, 80 hours of community service, and two years of probation.

Doing time for kids
Each night I spent in my jail cell, I prayed for my daughters and spent countless hours thinking about other parents and guardians like me. Parents that were helpless – recognizing that their child deserved a better education than what was being provided, but no rational options to attain it.

I thought about families like mine, who did not have room in their tight budgets to pay for private education, nor afford the high property values of suburban districts. What are they to do?

My nightmare was further evidence that education is the civil rights issue of our generation. And, like most rights, our country’s most vulnerable communities are left behind.

In an effort to help families avoid the fate that befell to me, I founded the Ohio Parents Union, an organization tasked with empowering parents throughout the state and providing families with resources to effectively advocate for the rights of their children. No longer should parents with children trapped in failing schools be left without rational options.

Parents need options
One of the solutions my organization strongly supports to aid this issue is a parent trigger.
Parent trigger allows a majority of parents to mobilize together and sign a petition to turn around a persistently low-achieving public school.

In addition, it provides families with leverage where they otherwise do not have it by increasing pressure on districts and others in charge of failing schools. By granting this power to parents, low-performing schools can now be held accountable to the needs of the students, families, and communities they serve.

Think about it. It is natural for parents to put the interests of their children above interests of the school system.  Moreover, the more power parents can exercise over their children’s education, the more likely our cities will be to construct education systems that put our students first.

Despite aggressive efforts to intimidate parents, four states – including my home state of Ohio – have passed comprehensive parent trigger legislation.  Many others are have considered, or currently in the process of considering this revolutionary idea.

Don’t back down
The concept of parent trigger has even inspired an upcoming film, “Won’t Back Down,” starring Viola Davis. The film – scheduled for release Sept. 28 – portrays a single mother that organizes parents to take control of their children’s failing school over strong union opposition.

I strongly encourage parents, teachers and school administrators to watch the movie.

Though the film was scripted in Hollywood with make-believe characters, real parents across this country are faced with this harsh reality every day. For those parents, please keep your head up and continue fighting the good fight.

There is no reason we should have to gamble with the academic outcomes of our children.

I was handcuffed, portrayed as a villain, and called a criminal by our justice system for doing what I could to guarantee my children had access to a quality education, and a chance to have a better life than I had. Like many of you, I am not rich. However, the greatest legacy or inheritance we could ever leave our children is a fair shot to achieve the impossible.

I encourage parents across the country to learn your rights, and visit the websites of StudentsFirst (www.studentsfirst.org), and the Black Alliance for Educational Options (www.baeo.org) to educate yourselves on this issue.

In addition, I urge parents to press elected officials to pursue parent trigger legislation in your communities.

Politicians, I urge you to listen to our voices.

Our kids should not be trapped in failing schools with no way out. This needs to change now. Our future is way too important to wait.

Kelley Williams-Bolar was convicted last year of falsifying records so that her two daughters could attend a better school.

One Response to A ‘criminal’ for wanting a good education for girls

  1. From Gwen Samuel: For those, like Dr. Phil (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaIJ18-oAnc) who think Kelley Williams-Bolar broke the law by putting her children in a school she, as the PARENT, felt was safe and better equipped to meet her daughters acadedmic needs, please let me ask you a few questions.

    1. Was it against the law for Black slaves to run away from slave owners? Yes it was against the LAW

    2. Was it against the LAW for Blacks like Martin Luther King jr., Rosa Parks, Malcom X, Emmett Till and other Blacks before the Civil Rights Act to eat in “white only” restaurants…? YES it was against the LAW

    3. Was it LEGAL for children under the age of 14 to be forced to work ten plus hour days as indentured servants and slaves? YES kids were denied access to schools and made to work as servants and in manufacturing jobs before child labor laws.

    4. Was it LEGAL for women to VOTE before the 1920’s? NO

    These are a few examples of LAWS that were in existence before civil right leaders, some lawmakers, and Human right activist went to court, in the thousands, demanding courts and lawmakers to find these types of laws UNCONSTITUTIONAL!

    This applies to School Residency/Zip Code education laws!

    Forcing parents and Guardians to send their children to unsafe and low performing schools is UNCONSTITUTIONAL because it DENIES children access to the appropriate educational tools and supports needed for them be able to become productive(tax paying) citizens in life and DENIES OUR children access to the tools for them to be able to engage in the civic process i.e voting (if a child doesn’t have access to effective reading instruction, how can they read the voting ballot)

    The Connecticut Parent’s Union is in Federal Court NOW fighting these unconstitutional School residency/Zip code education laws!

    Join us in the fight to get the courts to rule these school residency laws/Zip Code education laws are UNCONSTIUTIONAL because they deny children their constitutional right to have a high quality “approrpriate” education thus setting under represented populations i.e Blacks, Hispanics, Poor, Rural and Special Needs childen, to FAIL in life!

    Kelley Williams-Bolar only crime was wanting the best for her children by putting them in a safe and high performing school!

    Let us not fool ourselves, caring and devoted parents would do the same, if they felt their childs well-being was in jeopardy!


    Martin Luther King Jr. – “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”

    Martin Luther King jr.”I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for the law”. — “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963

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