Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bolar for Dollars

If you ask me to choose between a struggling single mother wanting to provide better opportunities for her children and a school district whose sole concern is its bank account, I’m going to go with the former. As an Asian American parent of modest means, my allegiances are with Kelley Williams-Bolar, the single mother from Akron, Ohio who was jailed for sending her daughters to a school in the Copley-Fairlawn School District (outside of her zone) -- 

And who stalwartly stated she would do it all over again to provide her children with the advantages she believes – and I believe -- they deserve.

Copley-Fairlawn’s mission statement is an exercise in hypocrisy:

The Copley-Fairlawn City School District will provide a quality education for all students in a challenging, secure environment, maximizing the academic and personal development of each student. Our students will be knowledgeable, critical thinkers who can succeed as life-long learners.

The AFT Exposed site’s likening of Kelley Williams-Bolar to modern day Rosa Parks is very accurate. Both were punished for disobeying the law of the day. Neither were career criminals nor posed any immediate danger to their communities or neighboring communities (discounting the threat they presented to the status quo). Both sought basic rights. Parks: the right to sit in her seat of choice on a bus, and Williams-Bolar: the right to protect her children’s welfare and prepare them for future success as active participants in civic dialogue.

Kyle Olson, Executive Director of National School Choice Week states (as quoted in the AFT Exposed post):

The irony is that this episode all occurred during National School Choice Week, when thousands of people from around the country are rallying for greater school options… Parents shouldn’t have to break the law to ensure their kids get into a better school – it should be the rule, not the exception. Parents ought to be able to send their child to any school they damn well please.

An aroma of pre-Brown v. Board of Education “Separate but Equal” sentiment wafts through the Copley-Fairlawn decision. Karoli at Odd Time Signature provides an informative post exposing the inequities of the situation. She provides a comparison of the Copley-Fairlawn schools Kelley’s daughters attend and the Akron schools that were her “choices.” Kelley’s daughters would have attended schools that  “did not meet the benchmarks for adequate yearly progress.” Kelley went to jail for sending them to schools whose report cards showed them to be “Excellent.”

As someone who is descended – and whose children are descended -- from a people the US government aggressively legislated against, Kelley William-Bolar’s conviction and sentencing is a test of my abilities as a parent to prepare my children for the inequities of “freedom” without sullying their limitless faith in their neighbors and peers.

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