No More Lines: An Interview with Kelley Williams-Bolar

Christina Garrett, No More Lines fellow and productivity coach for busy moms, sat down with Kelley Williams-Bolar, also a No More Lines fellow, educator, and mother, to discuss Kelley’s story of being jailed for simply enrolling her children in a nearby public school.

The conversation covered the impact of Kelley’s struggle to simply enroll her daughters in a public school close to where they lived in Akron, Ohio. Her father’s house, just over the border in Copley, was assigned to a school which Kelley believed would be a much safer environment. Kelley had previously lived at her father’s house and her daughters would stay there from time to time.

After hearing her daughters’ troubles at their current school, Kelley’s father recommended that she bring them to his house for the year and enroll them in the local public school. For this, Kelley’s family was quickly singled out by the school district. The first year her daughters enrolled in the new school, the district sent several people to the house to conduct an invasive review of their living situation.

But the second year, the district went so far as to hire a private investigator to snoop on Kelley and her family. This is what ultimately built the case against her.

After she designated her father as the kids’ guardian, the court recommended she withdraw her daughters from the Copley school. Because of the trauma of the investigation, Kelley withdrew her daughter from the school, but it took the district 18 months to file charges, indicting both Kelley and her father.

Ultimately, they were both charged felonies for “stealing” an education. She spoke about how the ordeal affected her friends, family, and community, noting that the stigma others placed on her struggle was a way to pressure her into being complacent.

When asked if she would it all over again, Kelley notes that she would not since it was so hard on her family, her dad especially. They were not able to contact each other while they were being detained prior to their trial. He was also indicted like Kelley since she used his address, but those charges were ultimately dropped.

Fortunately, Governor Kasich pardoned Kelley, so she would not be a felon and could eventually become the educator she is today. But, prosecutors went after her dad and charged him with Social Security fraud because he did not shift his disability benefits once he was eligible for Social Security. Tragically, during that detention, he contracted c. diff and passed away miles apart from his family, with one month remaining in his sentence.

Christina Garrett summed up the No More Lines initiative – one in which she and Kelley have participated this year – as one that looks at families to make the best choices for their kids.

“Public schools should be like public pools.”

Christina also calls on us to think deeply: public education should be truly public; it should be available to everyone. Anyone can go to any public library, but public schools are simply not the same.

How will we advocate for this generation and the next? How will we empower not only families, but educators as well, to flourish in their craft and serve kids in ways that prepare them for the future?

Kelley then reflected on her journey. Serving jail time for a felony sentence – no matter how unjust – can set back anyone’s career or life aspirations. But today, Kelley is a professional educator, working in her community to help set young people up with skills to be successful in life. Her story shows us the absurdity of the policy which put her in jail for trying to help her kids, but also the power of perseverance through difficult times.

Watch the full interview on The Momathon Diaries here:  

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