An Ohio mother is in jail after being convicted of tampering with records to enroll her children in a better school district.
Kelley Williams-Bolar, 40, of Akron, illegally registered her two daughters at her father's address in suburban Copley Township to get them into the Copley-Fairlawn school district rather than the urban Akron district, a jury decided.
The Akron City school district met only four of 26 standards on the latest Ohio Department of Education Report Card and had a 76% graduation rate. Copley-Fairlawn City Schools met 26 of 26 standards and had a 97.5% graduation rate.
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Patricia Cosgrove sentenced Williams-Bolar last week to five years in prison, but suspended all but 10 days. Williams-Bolar also must serve 80 hours of community service and will be on probation for three years.
The Rev. Lorenzo Glenn of Macedonia Baptist Church had asked the judge for leniency, saying he had known Williams-Bolar for more than 20 years, the Akron Beacon Journal newspaper reported.
"This is a serious matter," Glenn said, according to the paper, "but by all means, it was done to help her children."
Williams-Bolar told CNN affiliate WEWS-TV that she and her children considered her father's house one of their homes.
"My primary residence was both places. I stayed at both places," she said in an interview at the Summit County Jail.
Williams-Bolar's father, Edward Williams, told CNN affiliate WJW-TV that the children did live with him, so he believed the family was within the law.
He said his daughter's Akron neighborhood – where she lives in government-subsidized housing – isn't safe.
"She had 12 police reports that her house had been broken in, so what am I supposed to do? Just leave them there?" Williams said to WJW-TV. "I mean, I can protect them better if they was with me."
Williams-Bolar, a single mother, works as a teacher's aide at a high school in Akron and is just 12 credits away from earning a teaching degree at the University of Akron, according to the Beacon Journal.
Her felony conviction will bar her from being licensed to teach in Ohio.
Copley-Fairlawn Superintendent Brian Poe told WJW-TV the case cost the district $30,000 in two years of lost tuition and $6,000 it spent on the investigation.
He denied that Williams-Bolar was singled out because she is black and the Copley-Fairlawn district is 75% white.
The district almost always resolves residency cases without involving the courts, he told WJW-TV, but couldn't work out a resolution with Williams-Bolar.
"The way I look at it is, the bottom line, you need to follow the law," he said. "If you choose to step outside of the law, what's going to happen at that point is you are going to have to face the consequences for that."
Williams-Bolar told WEWS she intends to appeal her conviction.
Grand theft charges against her father resulted in a hung jury. No new trial date has been set.