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Jailed Ohio Mother Fights For Educational Equality

After becoming a national symbol of the failures of public education, Ohio mother Kelley Williams-Bolar has become a passionate education activist. Williams-Bolar was arrested and placed in jail for nine days for illegally enrolling her children in a neighboring public school district, an ordeal that has pushed her into speaking out against educational inequality and trying to help parents gain more power in the public school system.

Wiliams-Bolar believes it is simply unfair that certain children are forced to stay in a district with unsafe or poorly performing school systems.

“I had to do a DNA test and swab my cheek like I was a bank robber,” Williams-Bolar said in an interview with Now the mother is on probation for two years, and wants parents to be aware of the injustices inherent in public school systems. “… I don’t ever want this to happen to another parent,” she said.

Despite being well over the legal drinking age, Williams-Bolar is not allowed to drink and has to submit to drug tests. Every month she reports to a probation officer and even had to complete 80 hours of community service. In addition, she had to pay over $800 in fines and restitution.

In February the single mother announced the formation of the Ohio Parents Union. This union is just a part of an expanding network of organizations that fight to give parents more control in the reformation of public schools across the nation. She has recently been referred to as the “Rosa Parks of education,” but she claims she is just a mother looking out for the safety of her children.

Williams-Bolar was a classroom aid for children with special needs in Akron Public Schools, so leaving the district wasn’t on her mind until someone broke into her home in 2006. Her two daughters, Kayla and Jada, were only thirteen and nine at the time and she was concerned for their safety.

“I’ve got two girls and they’re growing up. I couldn’t have them walking home alone from school,” Williams-Bolar explained. Her solution was to use her father’s address in the Copley-Fairlawn district in order to enroll the girls in what she felt would be a safer school. The girls would then be able to walk home to their grandfather’s house instead of being alone in a home that had just been broken into.

Although Williams-Bolar claimed safety was her major reason for placing the girls in a new district, the difference in performance between the two schools was astounding. While Akron Public Schools met the state benchmark in five out of the twenty-six categories of performance, the Copley-Fairlawn School District met all twenty-six of its state benchmarks. Kayla and Jada were enrolled in the school from 2006 to 2008 before their mother was finally caught in the act.

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