As you’ve probably heard by now, an Ohio mom named Kelley Williams-Bolar was sent to jail for sending her kids to school in the neighboring district where her father lived.

Parents across America struggle with these questions: how do I ensure that my kids are safe, and how do I expose them to the greatest possible educational opportunity?

Kelley Williams-Bolar answered them by sending her two daughters to school in a nearby school district. Unfortunately, that decision has potentially cost their family a chance at success: Williams-Bolar is studying to become a teacher, and a felony conviction could prevent her from achieving her dream.

That outcome is clearly disproportionate to the crimes she’s been accused of. Since Friday, more than 38,000 ColorOfChange members have signed a petition calling on Ohio Governor John Kasich to lead the fight for just outcomes for Kelley Williams-Bolar. Please consider adding your voice to the petition, and asking your friends and family to do the same.

Here’s the message we sent to our members on Friday:

Dear member,

Kelley Williams-Bolar wanted to give her children a better life by sending them to school in the nearby majority-White school district where her father lives — and she went to jail for it. Now, as a convicted felon, helping her children will be even harder — she had been studying to become a teacher, but that dream may have ended as well.

Real justice requires that the punishment fit the crime; by any measure, this is cruelly unjust.

Please join us calling on Governor Kasich to take a public stand and do everything he can to right this injustice (including making sure that Williams-Bolar has the opportunity to become a teacher in Ohio). And please ask your friends and family to add their voices as well — it takes just a moment:

Kelley Williams-Bolar is a single mother of two daughters, and she is a teacher’s aide in Akron city schools who has been studying to become a teacher. According to Williams-Bolar, after their home in a housing project was burglarized, she decided to protect her daughters’ safety by sending them to school in neighboring Copley Township, where her father lives.1

Williams-Bolar claims that she maintained a part-time residence at her father’s home, but the school district didn’t see it that way. Neither did County Prosecutor Sherri Walsh, who charged Williams-Bolar with grand theft and falsifying records — a third-degree felony. The judge presiding over the case recognized the harshness of the felony charge and encouraged Prosecutor Walsh to offer a plea bargain for a lighter charge — but Walsh flatly refused.2

Williams-Bolar was convicted on the felony charge, and sentenced to 5 years in prison. The judge suspended all but 10 days of the jail time, instead ordering 2 years of probation and 80 hours of community service. She’s out of jail now, but the repercussions could last a lifetime: unless the felony is eliminated from her record, Williams-Bolar may be unable to earn her teaching certificate under Ohio law. Williams-Bolar is only a few classes away from earning her teaching certificate.3

Any parent could understand why Kelley Williams-Bolar did what she did to try to give her children access to opportunity. It’s tragic that families around America must make choices like this every day in order to ensure their kids are safe and well-educated. And it’s tragic that this family’s opportunity to succeed stands to be limited because a single mom chose to put her kids first.

With just a moment of your time, you can make clear to Governor John Kasich that you expect him to lead in ensuring real justice that’s proportional to the facts of the case. By speaking out, you’re not just standing with Williams-Bolar — you’re standing with every parent who doesn’t have access to great schools, and who must make difficult choices.

Please join our call for justice for Kelley Williams-Bolar. And when you do, please ask your friends and family to do the same.

Thanks and Peace,

— James, Gabriel, William, Dani, Natasha and the rest of the team
  January 28, 2011

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1. “Ohio Mom Kelley Williams-Bolar Jailed for Sending Kids to Better School District,” ABC News, 1-26-2011

2. “Kelley Williams-Bolar leaves jail but public outcry escalates,” The Beacon Journal, 1-26-2011

3. See Reference 1

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