27 January 2011

Surpassing Educational Boundaries: Criminal Intent?

The Internet is buzzing about President Obama's most recent State of the Union address, wherein he emphasized the importance of improving primary and secondary education in addressing social and economic issues and ensuring a better future for America. 

Sounds like a plan.

The unfortunate truth is that, not only is America as a whole lagging behind in education, some schools and districts don't have the money or resources to meet even minimal standards. The facts are well-known. Not all schools are created equal. Schools in poverty-stricken, low-income areas often face issues with violence and crime, and usually have lower test scores and dismal retention rates. In fact, according to an article in the Huffington Post, about 15% of schools account for over 50% of dropouts, the majority of those being Latinos and African Americans.  Although it's nowhere near impossible, this means the odds are stacked against our next Black president hopefuls.

One Ohio mother was recently jailed for trying to even that playing field for her children. Kelley Williams-Bolar lives in the projects of Akron, OH. She has been sending her children to school in a nearby suburban public school district for nearly three years. The students' grandfather lived in the more affluent district, and their mother used his address on school documents. The district hired a private investigator who confirmed the actual address of the students.

She has since been convicted of falsifying records, a felony charge for which she will serve 10 days in jail and 180 hours of community service.  The sentence sounds like a slap on the wrist in comparison to the original 10-year prison sentence, but the felony charge will remain on the mother's record, limiting her employment opportunities and probably barring her from a career in teaching .

Sounds like cyclical injustice to me.

I understand that the law is black-and-white. What Williams-Bolar did is clearly fraud; that cannot be disputed. However, we should be examining not only the "criminal activity" but the system that drove her to it. Something is flawed here.

Time Magazine Article
Change.org Article
Show Me Campaign