Kelley Williams-Bolar: I ‘Never Thought I’d Be Prosecuted’

The Ohio mom whose outrageous criminal case sparked a national outcry finally speaks out.

By Julianne Hing Sep 27, 2011

Kelly Williams-Bolar, who spent nine days in jail for "stealing" her daughters’ education after she used her father’s home address to enroll her daughters in a school in his district, has spoken. In a frank interview with the New York Times, she talks about concerns for her daughters’ safety that drove her to she to use her father’s home address in the first place, and the utter shock of being indicted long after she had removed her daughters from the school district.

From her q&a:

QUESTION You registered your daughters in a school district that didn’t serve your neighborhood. Why?

ANSWER My home had been broken into in 2006. I decided to enroll my kids using my dad’s address. We’re over there a whole lot. He helps raise them. He’s very involved with my children. Everything was fine — at least I thought it was — until the second year. I was very concerned about their safety. I didn’t want them at home by themselves. I was in school. I worked long hours at the university. I wasn’t comfortable with them being that independent. My children were too young. One was in junior high and the other was in third grade. They were too young. I did not have an opinion if the schools were at the level they should be or not. That’s not why I did what I did. People do it all the time. My grandparents raised me, so I didn’t think it was a problem because I didn’t give them a fake address or anything like that. Their grandfather is involved in raising them.

Q. How have your children responded to all this?

A. Both my daughters were devastated. There was a trickle-down effect. When I hurt, they hurt. When it first started, I tried not to show that — to be protective of them. But eventually, I had to explain to them: "Mommy enrolled you in Copley-Fairlawn schools and that wasn’t right because we don’t live there day and night." They still are affected. They still have moments where they think Mommy is going to be taken away.

Williams-Bolar faced charges of both theft–for "stealing" more than $30,000 worth of education for her daughters, and records tampering. While the theft charges were eventually dropped, Williams-Bolar argued that the felony records tampering conviction threatened her career as an educator. After online organizing spurred a national outcry from people who said Williams-Bolar should never have been charged in the first place, Ohio Gov. John Kasich reduced her charges earlier this month. Williams-Bolar, however, must still complete 80 hours of community service and is still on probation. She’s also on the hook for the cost of her own prosecution.