Crimes of Education

I’ve been getting a lot of e-mail asking for my thoughts about Kelley Williams-Bolar, the woman here in Ohio who was recently sentenced to to ten days in prison (of which apparently she served nine) and now has a felony record because she and her father listed the father’s residence as the primary residence of her children, in order that the kids could go to school in a better school district. As I understand it, idea here is that because she didn’t live in the district and pay taxes there, she committed fraud, although from what I understand the jury wouldn’t or couldn’t convict on that charge and instead she was found guilty of tampering with court documents. Ironically Ms. Williams-Bolar is not that far off from getting a teaching credential, which she now may not be able to use because she’s a felon.

How do I feel about this? Well, I will tell you a true story. When I was in sixth grade, my mother and her then-husband broke up, and in the space of three months I lived in four different houses in three different cities, and in three different school districts. The school district I had been in when this all started had a genuinely excellent “gifted and talented” program, and my teacher at the time, Keith Johnson, was one of those teachers that you’re lucky to get once in your entire life. I’d been at the school for a couple of years and I had friends who I still have now. And, not to put too fine a point on it, the breakup of my mother and her husband wasn’t exactly out of the blue, and the school and the people who were there who cared about me were an island of stability in a life which was, though no fault of my own, completely messed up.

When my mother left our house and moved, taking me and my sister with her, what she should have done, procedurally speaking, was take me out of that school and put me in a new one, in the city we then lived in. And then two months and two moves later, when we were in a new city and new school district entirely, she should have done it again, giving me three different schools, three sets of schoolmates and three entirely different social situations to adapt to on top of the fact that my family and home life had just been blown up.

She did do was no such thing. Through four moves, three cities and three school districts I stayed in the same class with the same teacher and the same friends and classmates. How my mother managed to do this is something she would have to tell you, but in point of fact I know that officially — and, I suspect, legally — speaking I was not supposed to have been allowed to stay there. My mother made the decision to do what she thought was better for me rather than what was probably the letter of the law.

Did my mother break the law doing what she did? I don’t know, but possibly. Did she break the rules? She certainly did. Did she do right thing? Probably not, from the point of view of the procedures of the school district. From the point of view of what was best for her child: Absolutely. There’s really no doubt about that. And if in fact my mother broke the law on my behalf way back when, I can say that doing so made a positive difference at a critical time in my life.

So: How do I feel about Ms. Williams-Bolar? Basically, I think she deserves a prison term and a felony conviction about as much as my mother did, for performing essentially the same actions, thirty years ago.

126 Comments on “Crimes of Education”

  1. You have to be a little careful here. I think a felony is too much. This lady is screwed. But without any laws of this kind or any prosecution of people who break them, EVERYONE is going to figure out a way to go to the best school. Companies would spring up allowing you to rent 1 sq ft of apartment and list it as your primary residence in the school district of your choice. You are ignoring the wider implications of how other people are affect by your mom and this moms if nothing is done.

  2. I’ve heard, since the late ’60s, many stories like yours and many third-hand tales of machinations with addresses and proof of residence to place kids in schools where they might thrive instead of being warehoused.

    It goes on all the time. And will continue to go on, and no, school “vouchers” are not the answer.

    To paraphrase the bumper sticker, education is expensive, but not more so than ignorance.

  3. @2 – with the current system, you’re right. But I think this kind of thing shows why the current system is messed up. What SHOULD she have done? Are some kids just screwed — going to worse schools, with no way around it? To some extent, the mom could have tried to change her local school, but she probably doesn’t have the money to give them an extra 30,000 per kid per year, which is what she supposedly stole by sending her kids to the other school.

    Also, I think that even if you believe its wrong to scam the system in this way, the system should include some sort of exception for kids who end up unexpectedly moving in the middle of the school year.

    Given that the grandfather DID live in the nicer school district, I wonder if there was a legal way they could have done this. Like, could he have legally adopted the kids, or been added as a second legal guardian somehow? Or could they all have moved in with him and kept the other house as a “vacation home”?

  4. “EVERYONE is going to figure out a way to go to the best school.”

    As opposed to how it is now, where just the people who can afford to live in the right neighborhoods can do it. You don’t seem opposed to that system, just the one that springs up when everyone else can do it, too. Why is that?

    I think that as soon as the grandfather said, “Yes, those kids live with me,” this should have been over. And the fact that it wasn’t disgusts me.

  5. You had a good mother, Scalzi, and good teachers and school district. We moved a lot when I was young, and I changed schools a lot (or at least it seemed that way to me.) The moves, though, were of the several-hundred mile variety for the most part, and there was only one change mid-year.

    This case? I don’t know nearly enough. A felony conviction seems too extreme.

  6. I know the school district I attended growing up, is an open district, so someone in another district can attend our school district, as long as they had their own transportation. I know a lot of kids who ended up moving away, but their parents allowed them to finish up the school year at that school. It was completely legal. So this is messed up in my opinion. No one should be punished for doing something that was in the best interest of their children.

  7. Diana:

    Interestingly enough, Bradford, where we are now, also is an open district, although I think it is contingent on whether there is available space (i.e., that the presence of additional kids does not take it above a certain student-teacher ratio).

  8. From what I’d heard, the judge kept trying to get the district to settle for lesser charges but they insisted on pushing for the maximum they could get.

    Also, I still think it’s weird that people send you emails asking you to post on certain topics.

  9. @9 – I dunno, all of that is pretty much what I assumed when I read the article. It just gives details — her daughters actually lived with her, but she lied on various forms and said they lived with their grandfather. That’s exactly what the reporting said she did. I don’t see the difference, except that most of the articles summarized it instead of listing all the forms she lied on.

    The only thing on there that gives me pause is it says she ignored repeated attempts to “resolve the residency issue” over a few years. I’d be curious to know what exactly those attempts were. In any case, it sounds like she knew she’d been caught, so I wonder why she kept going with it. But I still think the system is so messed up that its hard to care about its rules.

  10. As a move of common decency, the felony should be expunged and everyone can get on with their lives.

  11. @13 I think there’s a difference between (1) asking the school to work with you, moving in with a relative in that district, or attempting open enrollment, and (2) lying and ducking them, obtaining free school lunches by lying about your income, impersonating a military deployment, lying to courts, and getting rent subsidies for your kids when you’re telling other people they’re not living with you.

    I’ve got to take issue with the idea that the system is messed up so it’s okay to break the law. Regardless of your position on this case, that’s like saying you don’t like the tax system so you’re going to stop paying taxes. The IRS will come after you, regardless of your views on that, regardless of your reason for not paying. It really doesn’t matter if you used the money for your kid’s braces, or your mom’s surgery, or any other good reason; you still owe them, you can’t lie about it, and you face consequences for breaking those rules.

  12. I’m married, no kids so far, might be one or two in the future. I’ve been paying taxes into school districts for 16 years now. Not one dollar has gone to educate my children, since I have none. All of it’s gone towards educating other people’s children. Really, I don’t give a damn. It’s going to educate my country’s children, or some subset thereof, and I’m fine with it. But if I found out that some of my tax money went to pay for detectives to hound children for being on the wrong side of some district boundary I don’t care about, well, I would be furious. Keeping children out of school is not a legitimate use for my tax money, and any school district official who did it would find out that some of us non-Tea-Party members are capable of working up even more white hot rage, and acting on it.

  13. Oh, and I think that the example Mr. Scalzi posted here of three months of moving around in an extraordinary situation, is a whole lot different than her continued misrepresentations over a period of years, covering herself with lie after lie when they tried to work with her.

    Um…and if the neighborhood was to dangerous for the kids to go to school there, why was it okay for them to actually live there, instead of asking her father to take them in, or moving them out of this bad neighborhood completely?

  14. According to my wife, this is widespread in the district she teaches in. She’s said that there have been times where up to a third of her class aren’t from the distract. Many officially transfer and lie. Her district mostly ignores the “problem” because for all the issues it brings, these are kids who diserve an education.

    She also teaches in one of the best districts in the state. Many, if not most, of the students coming from outside are in the worst. It is no accident that the best is in a rich white suburb and the worst is in a poor black suburb. The way that school funding is set up is unconscionably biased, in California at least.

    I find the whole thing appalling. By charging her $30k, they are essentially admitting that the school system is something you pay for, and that richer people get more. It’s not supposed to be like that. Education is supposed to be equal for everyone. If it actually was, women like this simply would not exist.

    Jas@13: I suspect the reason she ignored the rules and didn’t work to “resolve the residency issues” is because doing otherwise would have resulted in her children being forced elsewhere where the education was inferior.

  15. Anyway, for commenters who want to know more about the context behind this woman’s prosecution, here’s a gem from’s comments on the case:

    I live in Copley and PAY my property tax sohe kids of Copley can go to school. NOT GHETTO TRASH. I don’t care if she thinks she was doing best for her kids. She stole from every person in Copley that pays taxes. I do …not pay my taxes for her kids to go to school and they have no right going to school there

    SHE NEEDS TO TO TO JAIL FOR A WHILE. GIVE HER THE MAX TERM!! What a crook and go back to Akron, oh wait jail!”

    Classy area that must be…

  16. “But without any laws of this kind or any prosecution of people who break them, EVERYONE is going to figure out a way to go to the best school. ”

    If only.

    Maybe we should come up with some kind of system where kids can go to the school that’s best for them, wherever it may be, and the taxpayer dollars follow the kids where they choose to go.

    I know. Crazy.

  17. AJ:

    Well, there was also the part where once I was settled, I was still in another district entirely. I don’t know that my mother was ever asked to produce proof she was still in the district, but I don’t imagine that after everything she would have given up easily. I also did receive free lunch and etc and I’m not entirely sure how that was achieved, either.

    In short, I think it’s nice that you’re trying to make excuses for my situation, but strict honesty requires me to suggest it’s entirely possible my mother pulled out all the stops to make sure I stayed where was.

    As much as you’re trying to make sure everyone else here doesn’t see it all from one point of view, it could be asked of you whether or not you’re bending over backward trying to make sure there’s no possible way Ms. Williams-Bolar’s actions are anything but intransigent.


    I think we need to be careful about equating the sort of person who leaves a comment at a newspaper site with the general population of folks in that area. In my experience, there’s an inverse relationship between the size of news site and the apparent intelligence of its commenters.

  18. Oh my. The notion that a prosecutor brought felony charges, and that the case wouldn’t resolve short of a jury trial, baffles me. Hey, how about lettng her plead guilty to a misdemeanor, with an agreement to make restitution for the amount of money that she should have paid to the school district (but shouldn’t she get an offset for the amount of tax money she paid to her own municipality, whose schools she would have otherwise used?), and call it a day? Put her on probation for a couple of years to make sure she doesn’t lie anymore. Make her spend 10 days doing some sort of work release, like picking up trash on the side of the road or washing cop cars or whatever. Good enough? Yes, one would hope. Go forth and sin no more.

    But another important question, it seems to me, is how we prevent what might be a legally justified conviction which, under the circumstances, is excessive. I looked around the Ohio codes for a bit, and though I don’t know much of anything about Ohio law, it appears she was charged with and convicted of violating ORC section 2913.42. If so, then that crime is only a felony. Ms. Williams-Bolar committed a crime by lying on an official record; the laws of her state make it a felony to do so; that pretty much ends the story, and the court has no way to consider the question of what she “deserves.”

    The answer is that states would be well-served to leave ample authority in the hands of judges to reduce charges to misdemeanors. In California, many crimes can be charged as either felonies or misdemeanors, depending on the circumstances. And, even if the prosecution brings a felony charge, the judge can reduce the charge to a misdemeanor. This happens all the time. It’s an important check on the authority of the executive branch. Here, the ten-day sentence doesn’t strike me as grossly excessive, given the charge, because most felonies involve substantially more custody time (at least in California). What is excessive is the felony conviction, which will haunt Ms. Williams-Bolar for years. It’s a pity that the misdemeanor option was apparently unavailable to the judge in her case.

  19. Everyone has a reason why the rules shouldn’t apply to them. Some of them, like our host’s, are good reasons but most of them aren’t. And the trouble is if you ignore them for a good reason, then you have no way of enforcing them for the bad ones. It is no longer equal and transparent. This woman thought she ignored them for good reasons, she must have known that what she was doing was outside the rules and went ahead anyway. When her knowing deception was uncovered and her reasons were tested, turned out the courts and the jury (which is the important part) of her own peers who faced the same hurdles in their lives disagreed. Freedom to break the rules, freedom to take the consequences.

  20. Afraid I have to agree with AJ on this one.

    I don’t know the exact details (no kids, yet), but where I am, we have a system in which you can apply for certain schools outside of the one you’re zoned for, and if they have the room, they’ll take the child, up to the capacity. There are no guarantees, but there are definitely some considerations: A sibling at that school, being right on the border between two zones, moving in the middle of the year, etc.

    Aside from that, however, you’re on your own.

    Is it fair that schools in poor or crime-ridden neighborhoods tend to be worse? No. In fact, I’d argue that such schools deserve far more of the funding share, to get them up to par with the rest of the district. Those are at-risk kids and they need the extra help that kids in more-stable environments don’t.

    But the existence of that inequity doesn’t excuse doing something illegal to get around it. Should it be a felony? No. But it shouldnt be blown off as if it’s no big deal. If it’s not fair that kids in wealthier neighborhoods get better schools, it’s also not fair that people who have found ways to get around the regulations should get better schools, too. Sure, this woman’s kids were getting screwed, but what about all the other kids in the school she was zoned for? Weren’t they getting screwed, too? Isn’t it unfair that their own parents weren’t clever or unscrupulous enough to find ways to send them elsewhere?

    I feel for this woman, I do. But I also feel for every other poor kid who’s getting a crappy education. Breaking the law as if you’re somehow more important than everyone else who’s suffering under it is not the way to exact change.

  21. Ok, no one else has said it so I will. Does anyone think she’d have been prosecuted if she was a white Republican suburban Mom? Yeah, me neither.

  22. “I think we need to be careful about equating the sort of person who leaves a comment at a newspaper site with the general population of folks in that area. In my experience, there’s an inverse relationship between the size of news site and the apparent intelligence of its commenters.”

    The school district officials and the DA who pressed charges both did it because they felt the public supported their actions. And the DA, remember, refused to do a plea bargain even when the judge asked for it. That indicates to me a large portion of the good citizens of Fairlawn and Copley not wanting “ghetto trash” coming into their schools.

  23. @19 Omri Ironically the kids might have ended up living with her father if she had gone to prison longer and stayed in that school district. I don’t know if that is how it would have played out depending on whatever the whole family situation is but that would be something. Who knows. That might be how it does end up anyway.

  24. Since Rick brought it up, this is the part where I show off the Mallet of Loving Correction and remind people that when talking about issues of race, take care not to accidentally (or intentionally) be racist. It’s tricky but I believe in you.

  25. Mr. Scalzi…

    If it was just the residency issue, I would not take issue with this. In fact, I would agree with the statements of most of the rest of the posters here.

    The reality, however, is that it’s not just the residency issue.

    She claimed no income on her application for the kids’ school lunches, but in reality, she had $2000 a month in wages and child support. I don’t know if she’d still be eligible, but I rather think if she qualified for anything, she’d get reduced, not free lunches. That’s money that could have fed other kids. My understanding of those programs is that there’s a formula involving monthly income and number of people in the household.

    She claimed her father’s address on her voter registration paperwork but then applied for subsidized housing for herself in Akron. By the way, lying on voter registration? Felony.

    Then there’s the lying on court documents.

    And the made-up deployment to evade investigators.

    My point with the link and my earlier statement was that there is no information here that leads me to believe that Mom Scalzi hid anything or lied about anything. There’s no information here that your family hid income in filing for school lunches. I’m not judging the residency thing.

    You know, though, if someone lied about their residence/household information on a Medicare application or food stamp application, I don’t think anyone here would have a problem with the idea that doing so purposely was fraud. But, as the article I linked earlier suggests, there may have been unfair coverage in the media giving her a pass for getting the kids in better schools. That’s admirable, but does not excuse the many and multiple representations and fraudulent statements.

  26. I wonder how many of the people here who’re such sticklers for the law (a) drive, and (b) have never once violated a traffic law, like speeding.

    Speeding kills people. This woman violating a rule that says she ought to accept a worse education for her kid because she’s in a poor district didn’t kill anyone. But guess which one you can get off for with just a traffic ticket that goes away eventually? People break “the law” all the damn time, but we hold this woman up as if she committed a moral wrong worth punishing, while we all wink and nod at people who violate traffic laws.

  27. Oh, what a tangled web … et cetera. What we do for our children, to ensure that they have the best start, the best schooling possible. In my last couple of years in the military, I deduced that my daughter was not being well-served by public schools. I felt as sorry as heck about that, since I was a product of public schools, and up until the 6th grade, my daughter had been well-served by DOD schools. But public schools – a disaster for her. And what could I do about it, as a working single parent? How can one heroic person go in and fix a crashing system – well, one can, of course … but this was real life, not a movie, and I had a real-time, real-life job. I’ve always wished that I had the space/time to have home-schooled her. She did really well with that, for a couple of months that that was an option.
    I caved – I sent her to a Catholic high-school. I could just barely afford the tuition for four years. Best money I ever spend, even though we’re Lutheran. And I consider myself fortunate that I had that option.
    I can’t pretend I know that the solution would be, with regards to public schools and Ms. Williams-Bolar – but perhaps Diana’s note about open school districts might have some practical merit. If parents work out the transportation issues – maybe the school which draws the pupils in overwhelming numbers gets the extra goodies, budget-wise.

  28. John,

    Just to be *really* clear, my slightly cynical supposition is that she would have found herself able to plea out of a felony if she were white. I’m not excusing her actions or lessening her responsibility because she’s black and once it went to trial, the jury might not have had a choice regardless of the race issue – once it was established she’d broken that law they may well not have had any choice in the matter. That’s why I used the word ‘prosecuted’ above.

    Put more simply, I do not believe she’s the only parent in that district who lives elsewhere and whose kid goes to those schools. So why was it that she was prosecuted? Or is the district cracking down and will be pursuing all other parents who live on the wrong side of some line?

    On the topic of fairness…. the problem here stems from the insistence on very local control of schools. If states funded all schools equally there’s no issue. That is, a school district should not get more money for its schools because it’s more well to do. All taxes should go into a state fund that’s distributed back out with each school getting so many dollars per student. Districts could still control how the money’s spent, but everyone gets the same amount per student. Not a cure-all, but a step.

  29. @Josh Jasper (30): We don’t wink and nod at people who violate traffic laws. We punish them. With fines. Sometimes really big fines. Your argument suggests that all laws are the same, and that if we don’t punish speeding as a felony, then because Ms. Williams-Bolar “didn’t kill anyone,” then there’s no way she should be convicted of a felony.

    It’s not a sound argument, though, because when speeding gets so excessive that it might kill someone, it becomes reckless driving, which can be prosecuted as a felony. Also, more to the point, it’s not useful to use the “kill anyone” test to measure whether or not a crime has occurred, or whether it’s serious. FYI, stealing your car doesn’t “kill anyone.” Neither does perjury. In fact, very few crimes “kill anyone.” Those that do are punished much for severly than speeding.

  30. Yeah, I’ve speeded. I’m not sorry and I plan to do it again. I like driving fast. I probably will again too.

    However if the coppers gave me a hefty fine and three to six points on my licence I would have no one to blame but myself. We all have the freedom to ignore laws we don’t like, but we have the freedom to take the consequences if we get caught.

  31. As a commenter on my site said when I posted about this:

    “Don’t you know it’s stealing for black children to try to learn the same as white children?”

    This is Ohio. Take a look at the comments on the site there, or, hey, even “AJ”‘s comments here. It’s really not hard to imagine that, even had your mother been caught, she’d have gotten off lighter than Ms. Williams-Bolar because she’s not black.

  32. AJ, I appreciate your post and link. Still, a felony conviction? If lying about residency warrants this kind of response then Rahm Emanuel might be in serious trouble up in Chicago.

    I applaud her for trying to get her kids in the best school. I wish every parent cared enough to game the system to give their kids the best.

  33. Suuuuure the father could have legally had custody and they could have tried to it that way. But then the kids would have had to live with him. But that’s not always the best thing for the child EITHER. My best friend had her two kids in private school she could barely afford because the public schools where we live aren’t good. Public school in the neighboring town where her ex lives are much better. It’s about 30 minutes away. He offered to alter the custody agreement to legally have custody so the kids could go to school there but they’d still really live with her. It would just be a “paper” thing. Thing is, that’s still illegal. Other thing is, he’s a jerk creaton idiot freak man and no WAY was she giving him custody because heaven only KNOWS what he’d do. Now in this case, they are talking about the grandfather but STILL. As a parent are YOU willing to give up legal custody of your kid for ANY reason? I think not.

    Seems like it would be good if all property owners had a voucher for the local school to use for their family then it wouldn’t matter that the kids don’t like with the grandfather and he doesn’t have custody. The family next door pays taxes just as he does. Of course, taxes would go up because they are at a rate figuring all paying won’t use that particular service…. No easy answer.

    But a felony? That’s ridiculous.

  34. @36 – Wow, interesting point about Rahm Emanuel. Hadn’t thought of that.

    In theory, I’m ok with the idea of every school getting the same amount of funding, but I still would want there to be some local control. There has to be a balance, because I don’t want them having so much local control that they, say, don’t teach evolution. But I went to a rural school on the very edge of a very large school district that also included inner city schools, and we were always having these ridiculous rules applied to us based on incidents in the inner city schools, and in our context it made no sense. So I’m against school districts that are THAT big.

  35. My mom did the same thing for me. When I was 10 I got into the “gifted program” in the school district in the city bordering ours, when I was applying we used my aunt’s address and for four years used it (after that we moved into that school district and it didn’t matter) so I (and my sister a year later) could be in the program. Actually the schools that housed the program (it was K-12 so there was an elementary, middle and high school) were on the west side of town and in high school there was always news that so and so shop down the road got held up at gun-point. The reasoning was putting all the kids in the gifted program on the west side would increase the school’s performance (which it did. My junior year we found out 3 different ACT averages for the school. Whole school, school without program, just program; 21, 18, 27).

  36. Count me as another person who doesn’t much care that she lied to get her kids into a better school. I didn’t care 20 years ago when my brother did it and I don’t care now. I understand that in an unequal public education system the law is going to try to prevent this from happening, but any action by the state other than making the kids go to the school in their home district is excessive.

    I’m going to remain skeptical about the claim that she also lied about her income for free lunches because, except for the statement by the guy AJ linked to, I didn’t find any corroboration. Maybe it’s out there and AJ will provide the links, but I’m not inclined to rely on one guy’s statement.

  37. The Akron Beacon Journal addressed the racism question here in a column by Bob Dyer

    Here are some facts.

    From 2005 through Friday afternoon, the Copley-Fairlawn School District formally confronted 48 families whose children were illegally attending its schools. The breakdown:

    • 29 families were black.

    • 15 families were white.

    • two families were Asian.

    • one family was Pacific Islander.

    • one family was multiracial.

    Question: If Copley went after Kelley Williams-Bolar because she is black, why didn’t Copley take the 28 other black families to court?

    Answer: Because those families didn’t do what Williams-Bolar did. Those families paid what they owed and immediately withdrew from the school or made arrangements so their children were legally residing in the district.

    Williams-Bolar was not singled out because of her skin color. She was singled out because — unlike 47 other families of varying colors — she openly and continually defied the school system, insisting that her kids lived in the district when they were living with her in Akron, and lying about her income and child support so her kids would get free lunches.

    That’s what a jury decided unanimously — a jury that included four blacks.

    Perhaps this might lay the racism comments to rest.

  38. Cassie,

    Thank you. Facts are good things and I stand corrected. I still think it’s rather silly and antiquated to run schools so that it matters whether or not you live on one side of a street or another, but that’s a different issue.

  39. If they’re going to prosecute people for such a heinous crime as ripping off the tax-payers in the better school district, then why don’t people who have no children attending school get a tax credit . . . or people who have their children in private schools or who home school?
    No, I don’t think what she did was a crime. Her father paid taxes in that district and his grandchildren should be allowed to attend schools there.
    There was an interesting discussion on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” on Thursday and I was appalled at all the teachers who thought Williams-Bolar deserved what she got. NONE of those teachers thought people who lived in that district, but didn’t have children in school, should get a tax break. I don’t either.
    This system is designed to keep people in their place, to thwart those who do want to work hard and get ahead.
    Fortunately for Ms. Williams-Bolar’s children, even though they’ve just suffered a pretty good punch in the gut, they’ve got a mother who will be involved in their education.

  40. Growing up in Chicago in the late 80’s/90’s I got to see first hand just how education disparity worked. Kids in my neighborhood went to one of two, fairly decent, public grade schools or the local Catholic school. The local high school was, functionally, a kennel for children.

    The facility featured weekly stabbings, a “quiet room” and an on-site police station. One year the prom was cancelled when a gang war broke out. Talking about it with people unfamiliar with the time and place you get looks like you’re describing some of the more colorful scenes in “Robocop”.

    My mother worked 60+ hours a week to put me into a private high school. Because of the way the public school system worked, my mother’s only choice was to pay for private school. Unless she wanted to quit her job and move, using the the money we didn’t have to do so. She made a painful sacrifice in the face of a system that, simply put, sucked.

    The woman in this story took a terrible risk to give her children a better life. Should she have made some restitution? Sure. Could this have been handled quietly and without a public trial and shaming? Yes. Prosecutors who strive to “make examples” of people should be “made an example of” by being sent off to provide legal aid to cannibals.

  41. I live in a school district that is supported by multiple levies on my property taxes for various “enrichment” programs that total over $3,500 per year on my property taxes – on top of the base property taxes.

    If you live in a neighboring community in a different school district, you don’t pay the enrichment levies.

    If I found out that someone was sending a child into my district without paying the special levies, I would report them immediately and I hope that they would be prosecuted as the felons that they are.

  42. As a non-American, I have a question: why on earth are schools funded with local property taxes? Surely if anything is the concern of state and/or federal government, it is ensuring that citizens are properly educated. And doesn’t funding schools locally ensure that schools in poor areas with ALWAYS be underfunded, and schools in rich areas will (proportionately) always be overfunded? Cos that sounds like a hideous recipie for an entrenched underclass to me…

  43. I’m so angry that I’m really trying to find a way to dodge the Mallet while expressing myself.

    Yes, she is a very sympathetic figure. Who among us wouldn’t want to do the best for our children? Who doubts for a minute that if she had been Bitsy Richwhite that she would have been treated more leniently? Who thinks that the current system is fair, reasonable and meets the needs of children as it should? Who really thinks jail time solved the problem?

    But it seems to be that we’re forgetting there are other kids who went to that school and other parents who wanted to do the best for their kids, and that maybe those kids didn’t get into their favorite teacher’s class, or into the GATE program, or even into the school they live near, because they were trying to play by the rules and some other kid’s parents didn’t think the rules applied to them. You think this is just an issue of rich white entitled parents vs. the poor scrabbling at the “good schools”? Right. Because “my child deserves the best” and “the rules don’t apply to me” are totally not part of the mentality of entitled rich suburban parent.

    I’m furious because I’ve been on the receiving end of what happens when a school runs out of room and runs out of resources and your kid gets to be the one told to fuck off, because of age or date of enrollment or some other “neutral” criteria. I’ve been the parent who had to actually have a child move in with Grandma because it was that or move to a different school and thus enable the district to play “IEP? Oh, did you have an IEP? Sorry, we have to start all over again because your child is a transfer student”.

  44. @47 – A lot of us americans would like to know the answer to that too. I don’t know any answer other than that’s the way its always been. And yes, it does mean poor areas are generally underfunded compared to rich areas.

  45. #3 “It goes on all the time. And will continue to go on, and no, school “vouchers” are not the answer.”

    Why Not? If one school is not meeting the expectations of the parent, or the needs of the student, why should there be a way to go to the school of choice?

    It’s interesting that in an age where the right to choose is so often espoused, when it comes to schools, that right seems to be limited by those same advocates.

    I really don’t understand why more people don’t support school vouchers, let the best schools get the most students, and those schools that are deficient must either improve or fade away from lack of funding. As it stands, deficient schools are still funded, and students are held hostage in order to provide a head count for funding metrics.

    “Waiting for Superman” anyone?

  46. Hey T1 @46, I pay an assload and a half in property taxes and my son goes to a good public school. If I found out that someone was sending their kid into my son’s school without paying the extra levies, I would welcome them with open arms. If they care enough to break the law so their children have a better life I’m all for them. I don’t fault the parents, I fault the incredibly fucked-up educational system that the state and the teachers unions foist on us that creates situations like this.

  47. Eddie C., Yeah, it does sound like that, doesn’t it?

    Oddly, it seems to only work out like that in urban areas, my rural Kansas schools (VERY low property taxes) were all rather well-funded.

    More on-topic: can anyone explain the last part of this quote from the link in #9:
    “Williams-Bolar repeatedly ignored attempts, over a period of years, by the Copley-Fairlawn School District to resolve the residency issue. Other parents caught in the same net took responsibility and either proved residency, pulled their children from the District or acted like adults and paid the tab;”

    Paid the tab? As in, you can enter your kid in the school by paying for it? Legally?

    In that case, I’m sorry to say I have to agree this lady did the right thing in entirely the wrong way, and so she’s liable for punishment.

  48. Rob @50: Perhaps because some of us see a disconnect between ‘having a voucher’ and ‘getting to go to whatever school you want to go to’, and are aware that schools do not have unlimited enrollment. They’re a nice subsidy for middle-class parents; they’re not going to help kids in poor neighborhoods attend St. Swithin’s Academy on the other side of town.

    Wasn’t Waiting for Superman the paid advertisement for charter schools?

  49. In yet another case to convince me that I am in fact a John Scalzi from an alternate universe where I was born later, moved to Maine, grew up to become a programmer (instead of a writer), and kept my hair, I also moved 4 times during my sixth-grade year. My mother talked to the school district, and since she still co-owned property there with my father (and then inherited my grandmother’s house), they let me finish the year there.

    I suppose I’d never realized quite how lucky I was.

  50. I went to school with alot of kids whose parents had fudged their addresses. Realize that we were all in the same ginormous urban district, one that was broken up into zones. So we were all paying through the same tax system. Heck, our state used a Robin Hood system, so *everybody* was paying the same tax system; it just gets redistributed. Anyway, those kids were definitely the ones who wanted to be there, and their parents were quite involved with school life. Our district is currently gutting its magnet program, so transferring schools is going to be highly improbable for any kid. The school board here wouldn’t dare prosecute the fudgers for fear of losing their jobs.

  51. @54 Would that assessment include the Washington DC school voucher program?

    As for the film, if it goes against one’s preconceived notions about public schools versus charter schools, I’m sure it was propaganda funded by a nefarious group with the worst of intentions.

  52. Having a completely appalling system would appear to be the problem.

    Funding schools from district property taxes? So poor areas have poor schools, and rich areas have good schools? Education should be state or federally funded.

    I think we might have just tapped into a major fundamental fault in the “American way”.

  53. @47 Funding isn’t the whole problem. My primarily rural district receives over 90% of its funding from local taxes, then the state kicks in some and we might get a little federal funding. The city near us gets over 90% of its funding from the state, and a small part from local taxes (which are lower than mine). Altogether they get about $2,500 more per student than we get, but our district is still much better. Different districts may get less from local taxes, but the state more than makes up for it, at least around here. If the school isn’t well run, and the neighborhood is bad, it doesn’t seem to matter how much money is thrown at the problem, the students don’t get a good education.

  54. JimR @53: Supposedly, what the normal practice in this district was when they caught a parent lying was not to immediately slap them with felony charges; the parent was offered the choice of withdrawing their child from the school, moving within the district so all was kosher, or ‘paying tuition’. I can’t tell from the article whether that means the school actually charges tuition of some sort (it appears to be a public school, so thinking not), whether that is an estimate of what it costs per month to educated the student, whether there is some fine involved, or what. The prosecution’s claim was that Ms. Williams-Bolar stated she had done nothing wrong and insisted that her kids really did live with their father (at least, enough to ‘count’ as living in the school district), and falsified some documents to support the claim that they lived with their dad.

    NPR coverage here. It looks as though they are going to let her go ahead to get her teaching license.

  55. I think this might be one of those situations where I would exercise my presidential pardoning powers.

    Now if only I were president…

  56. Haven’t there been several recent studies showing that the #1 determinant of how a kid does in school is the intellectual and financial advantages of the home life? That is, kids from educated families that put importance on education, will tend to be educated regardless of what sort of school they go to.

    This is not my way of saying it made no difference where this woman sent her kids (below a certain threshold, I’m pretty sure a bad school environment is not easily overcome). It’s my way of noting that clearly she values her kids’ education. I’d be interested in knowing what sort of grades they got.

    This tangentially reminds me of my sister’s tales when she was an ADA in Brooklyn. Sometimes they would haul in an otherwise not-bad parent for leaving their 11 year hold at home alone after school for a couple of hours. The kid didn’t get into any trouble, but the parent got reported and was now up on charges. My sister insisted they not assign those cases to her, because she and I were latchkey kids much younger than that. She couldn’t see prosecuting people for doing what her own parents had done.

  57. To clarify what’s commonly done in Summit County (Akron, Copley) and many other Ohio school districts:

    A student is permitted to attend a different school district if they are willing to pay fees that generally are over $1K, and mostly over $2K. I’m unsure what the formula is to determine that cost.

    The family must be willing to provide all transportation and agree to any additional fees that the school requires, such as class fees, pay to play (extra curricular) and lab fees. I believe some friends of mine paid roughly $3K for their son to attend a neighboring district high school.

    Other families, when faced with the truth, either paid up the required fees or withdrew their children.

    Ms. Williams-Bolar lied multiple times, so much so that the district thought it was worth it to video her to prove conclusively what the truth is.

    As a homeschooler, I’m not unhappy to pay taxes to educate the general populace’s children. I might want to pay less, I might want the school to drop a 1/3 of its administration and to run the buses more efficiently. I don’t want a tax credit because I don’t want the government thinking that a tax credit gives them some power in the decisions I make as a homeschooler

    I think charter schools threaten the status quo in a positive way because it gives power to families and takes it away from administration and teachers unions. I suspect that’s what’s the real driving force behind the anti-charter school paranoia.

  58. You know, the Constitution of the State of Ohio, right up near the top, in its very first article, says “All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their equal protection and benefit.” Equal protection and benefit. Every competent person in Ohio who’s not an utter fool knows that their school system doesn’t provide equal benefits to all the children in that state, and that the children who are less equally benefited are predominantly nonwhite and come from poor families. If the state of Ohio had to pay just the children of Akron the difference between the value of the the education they received and the value of the equal benefit they should have received by law, well the good citizens of the Copley-Fairlawn school district would be out a lot more money than the amount Ms. Williams-Bolar supposedly cost them. Be surprised, too, if those sticklers for the letter of the law have refunded any grant money to the state or federal governments, since they’re not supposed to have counted those illegal nonresidents in the enrollment figures their grants are in part based on.

    God bless the child who’s got his own

    Even worse, every day school administrators around the country try to deprive disabled children of the full education guaranteed by law rather than deal honestly with budget problems. And they’ll go into court or administrative hearings and swear their lying asses off that they’re motivated only by the educational interests of the children they’re trying to shortchange. They’re felons, of course, perjurers, but they won’t be punished (unless they do a bad job of lying and their employers lose the case, in which case they may lose some or all of their bonus or next raise). Won’t lose their teacher licenses, like felons should. Certainly won’t go to jail. All of those folks, collectively haven’t had to do the jail time handed down to Ms. Williams-Bolar. But they’ve done a lot more harm.

  59. From my understanding, her father did live and pay taxes in the district. Even if the children didn’t live there full time, they did have a legitimate address in the district. I think it should have been allowed, although they may have done it honestly to begin with and file an exception. The school district where I work often has students from other district who attend, although we are aware of it and approve a boundary exception. My particular school is horrible (93% below poverty, 90% hispanic) so we have a lot of “flight” from the neighborhood to more distant schools. If the parents are willing to provide transportation, I don’t see a problem. With charter schools and other options out there, take what you can get.

  60. If it were a public school thing, that’s one thing. But it says at the end of the newspaper article that she owes $30,000 in tuition that she got free through fraud. I think lying to get free tuition is going a little too far, personally. I got a perfectly fine education at a public school, which yes, my father lied about where he lived to allow me to go to. But it was a free school, in any case. A private school is private and charges tuition for a reason. You lie to avoid that, you are essentially stealing.

  61. #11 – Henry: Unfortunately, a lot of people are unable to think on their own and look to popular people or celebs to help form their opinion. I am not slamming JS here, just stating a common fact about some people. Of course I do not feel all people who email JS for comment fall into this category.

    As for the lady, no I certainly do not think she should not be convicted as a felon, that is insane. It really is a tough subject it seems. I have kids myself who have had a great time and much success in public school but there is something to be said about the concept of vouchers. Heck, several people I know at work who have no kids think it is wrong they are paying for public school. Crazy, I know.

  62. Cassie @63: It’s not paranoia to be realistic about charter schools. They can be a great thing; they can also fail horribly. They’re not a magic bullet. (PBS has an interesting overview of the issues here.)

    I find that a good rule of thumb is that any simple, single-factor solution to the educational crisis is going to be a) ideologically driven and b) wrong.

  63. 66-Megan: There is no such thing as a free school. Public school is funded by the residents that live in the community. The problem arises when people live in a ISD where they have chosen to have a higher tax rate and have a more advanced school system. Then the question arises, is it fair for a child in a neighboring community to have parents who lie about residence so they can send their children to the better system without paying for it via taxes?

    JS-Sorry for double post,,,

  64. Was the lady’s child an athlete? Down here in Texas folk get mighty riled up when a parent pulls the wool over the school officials’ eyes to steer their kid to a school out of the zone in which they actually live in order to play ball, any kind of ball, at a school with a really good team and winning record. Just wondering.

    #47 Crazy, I know. Texas schools have always been funded with both local and State dollars (Federal dollars for Fed programs). Decades back the State share was the majority share. Today locals fund the majority. And next year, the State will cut their allotment in Texas massively ($25 billion dollar deficit to be covered with no new taxes and no use of the rainy day surplus fund). So the property wealth of a local district does impact how much they can raise in local taxes and use for local schools. We have a Robin Hood Plan that tries to level the inequalities, but in real life it only helps but does not extinguish the inherent inequalities built systemically into the system.

    What the research shows over and over again is that money spent at the school is NOT the controlling factor for quality of student performance. Poverty at home IS the controlling factor. Schools anywhere with higher percentages of low-income families (of any ethnicity or background) will generally have lower performing students. Period. You could spend double, triple, quadruple the funds on such schools and the student performance will still be sub-par because poverty stricken homes simpley are unable to provide the enrichment and learning environments middle-class and upper-class home routinely provide. If we Americans want all our kids to succeed and do well in school, then we must attack and solve the poverty in which the kids find themselves. LBJ declared a War on Poverty. We lost that war.

    I just finished reading Tony Blair’s memoirs. New Labour in Britain appeared to tackle the problem with some successes. Possibly our political class needs to study what New Labour did to attack the problem of poverty and low performance by students trapped within poverty.

    Oh, as for the lady and her conviction as a felon. I admire her wanting to do what was right for her kid. But I taught my two sons the principle of logical consequences. If you choose to break a rule (or law) and a penalty follows, then logically you chose to risk that penalty being applied to you if caught. And if you are caught and hit with the penalty, well then, that was the logical consequence of your own choice. Her conviction should stand.

  65. I am a public school teacher. We have rules in place for transfers into our school that are based on if we have room. We are not a wealthy school but we have some good teachers and we do get transfer requests.

    For me the tragedy of this story is that not all public schools are created equal and they should be. We fight for every dollar we get and we will never be more than a poor rural school. We had to let 20 teachers go in our school district last year because of the mess with California’s budget. We couldn’t afford program and materials. There were many schools that did not suffer like this. They had a better zip code.

  66. I find it fascinating to read all the different comments here. One of the reasons I left NY and moved to Germany was the school situation: we had kids, we lived in a terrible school district, I couldn’t afford the $14,000 a year per child that the good public school system next to me charged when it had space to allow other kids in (still a bargain-$29,000/yr at the private school for 1st grade). I think funding schools through local taxes is a very stupid concept and leads to exactly the type of housing issues that the NorthEast has seen: it causes ridiculous changes in housing prices due to supply and demand of adequate schooling that distort reality. And these prosecutions are normal: I see them in Florida, where I have relatives, all the time. Because paying nothing, or 8,000 in school tax versus 38,000 in school tax, makes a real difference. I think she should have moved in with her dad. Or rented an apartment in her school district. I actually know these things, because we considered renting a small apt in the school district just so that our kids could go there- that’s what you do, if you can. And she could have. If I understand this case correctly. The lying for free federal meals- that’s just nasty.

  67. I pay my taxes hoping that all kids will get a decent education. I think there’s got to be a better way than leaving a child’s education up to the vagaries of district tax lines. I grew up in a good zip code public school, and it kills me to think that there are kids whose parents worked just as hard as mine, if not harder, who get less of an education because they have no funding.

    Also, pretty certain that economically, we do better when our country as a whole is better educated. Crime goes down when education is a priority. It’s sad that a few folks can’t see the holistic necessity of educating kids they call “ghetto trash”–so short sighted, so lacking in compassion.

  68. I know it’s an illusion, but shouldn’t the focus of this whole situation be that it shouldn’t have ended this way because going to a different school shouldn’t have made much of a difference from an educational point of view to begin with?
    Taking aside the issue of leaving behind friends, a mother should not be concerned that her kids get a different kind of education if they change district. Schools should be good everywhere, and that should be an aim of both people and politicians. Give more chances (money?) to those schools that need it the most.
    PixelFish hits the spot when connecting crime rates with education. Extra funding for schools in troubled districts will pay back in every way, showing kids that they can hope for a better life than the one ignorance offers them.

    One thing I’m wondering, that is only marginally related:
    what if I’m not ok with what the school in my district teaches the kids? I’m thinking about religious issues like creationism. If I’m against it should I not have the right to pull my kid from school and send him somewhere else? Could I?

  69. Sometimes the law is wrong. This is one of those times.

    What’s really unfortunate is that parents need to go to these kinds of measures to keep their kids in the same school or to get them into a good school. We need more school choice and better schools. Those are notions I think go hand-in-hand.

  70. A system that lacks human compassion tends to produce this kind of results, where the letter of the law matters more than the actual consequences this has for the people involved. This mother has done everything we would want a mother to do, put her children first and for most in everything she does. It is unfortunate that she was driven to such extremes but the lack of choice for a good education for her children put her there. Something is very wrong when as a society we prosecute some one whose primary goal is the best interests of their children and who acted upon it, but bureaucracy and anonymity tend to erase our humanity.

  71. To t1 @46 and other authors of the scattered posts above from (presumably) parents claiming that since you pay extra property taxes to live in a nicer area and would report (and hope for prosecution) of anyone from other districts sending kids to your schools: shame on you. Your attitude is appalling.

    By your logic, I should be righteously pissed off at your ilk for sending kids to school in districts where I paid property taxes, since I have no children and thus am not directly benefitting from your kids’ education. I mean, why should you get to freeload off of me?

    Your logic on this is obviously fallacious for several reasons.

    1. I do, in fact, benefit from your kid getting a good education. A stupid or ignorant populace helps no one. You likewise benefit from kids going to the best schools they can, be it yours or others, regardless of what taxes their parents did or did not pay.

    2. Regardless of if the people directly funded your kids’ school via local taxes, they definitely indirectly did, through the state and federal taxes they pay which your school district gets a large amount of their funding.

    3. It’s not going to hurt your kids *at all* to meet kids from poorer districts. Judging by your attitude, it likely wouldn’t have hurt you either.

    4. You *choose* to live in an area with a property tax levy for schools. You will not magically stop paying this levy once your kids are out of school. Oh, the humanity! Maybe we should now prosecute all of your neighbors for “stealing” your tax money.

    I could go on, but I am just going to stop and be happy my federal tax dollars are helping pay for your kids to get an education. You see, things like that are why, as an American, I am happy to pay my taxes.

  72. I have less of a problem with convicting this woman, and the punishment she got, than I do with the fact that there is that much of a difference in quality of schools that people actively seek to go there. A system wherein how much local property costs determines how much can be spent per student necessarily means that poor people get lesser education. Separate but “equal” is inherently suspect, and it is so here.

    This woman, in a vacuum, should be convicted and punished. But, the sad fact is this: if the education available to her child were equal elsewhere, she wouldn’t have any motivation to do this. It’s not, and as long as it’s not, I won’t condemn anyone who breaks the law to get the best education for their child rather than just accept a lesser education and future for them.

  73. 30 years ago the whole idea of open enrollment and contiguous school districts didn’t exist (at least not here in Ohio). Now that it does, it’s a simple matter to do what your mother did by filing some paperwork with the school to keep you in the spot you already held. I did that with my two daughters when we sold our house and moved in with the in-laws 4 years ago this month. Granted, we didn’t move 4 times in 3 months, which would necessitate doing the paperwork 4 times, which would be a royal pain for all involved. Those teachers who looked the other way for you can now just walk you down to the office and do the exact same, best-for-the-kid thing and do it legally.

    The point is, there are now avenues for not blowing up a kids life mid-school year that are pretty easy to follow if you care to. Getting your kid into a different district by fudging residency is a different matter, and as many have pointed out, leads to other problems. If everyone flocks to the best local district, they get overcrowded, underfunded, and stop being the best district.

    That said, making it a felony is absurd. This is seriously misdemeanor territory here. Make her do community service in a school cafeteria for a month and call it even.

  74. One thing I haven’t seen brought up here, except peripherally, is what happens to the kids left behind.

    The big problem I have with what she did – and my issue with vouchers, and to some degree with magnet and charter schools – is that it removes a big incentive to improve the poorer-performing schools. The way I see it:

    * No matter what some proponents of vouchers/magnets/charter/etc. try to claim, I don’t think it’s possible for all students at a poorly-performing school to opt-out; there’s always going to be children whose parents can’t afford the price-over-vouchers, or can’t handle transportation, etc. etc.

    * The parents who get their children out are going to be the most resourceful ones – the wealthiest ones, or the ones with the most drive, the ones who push hardest. In other words, the ones best-qualified to improve the public schools their kids are currently in.

    * The end result is that the less-fortunate kids get left behind to rot in schools that have lost the support of the most capable parents.

    Now, I feel sympathy for the parents involved. But I feel the situation as a whole is unconscionable, and I would much rather see the parents put their resources towards improving the school their kids are in, instead of trying to get them out of it. (I do make an exception for people in situations like our host; if a family moves in the middle of the school year, I do think kids should have a chance to finish out the year in their existing school instead of being forced to transfer in the middle of classes.)

    (Disclaimer: I don’t have kids myself, though I do have a niece and nephew that I care about. And I’ve been working for a public school district for the last six months, though it’s a temporary contract and not a permanent position.)

  75. I honestly had no idea there existed anything other than open district schools. Probably half of the people in my extended social circle disappeared between junior and senior years of high school because their parents were shuttling them to a different county/district, due to their fear of a legendary history teacher (their loss. Yes, he made us work harder than every other history class I had – including college – but I learned a lot in that class. The most important of which had nothing to do with history). As far as I know, no one bothered to hide their home addresses from the new school.

    That said, given the facts I know, I don’t think she deserved a felony conviction (misdemeanor, sure), though if I knew more about, say, the claiming-no-income thing, I might change my mind.

    All that said, I mostly wanted to respond to comments like this one from crypticmirror (@24): “And the trouble is if you ignore them for a good reason, then you have no way of enforcing them for the bad ones.” I understand the point, but I disagree. That sort of thinking less to zero-tolerance policies and the related idiocy that stems from them. Yes, the law should treat everyone equally as much as possible, but at some point, someone haas to make a judgement call. The kid who brought a kitchen knife to school because he grabbed Dad’s lunchbox may have committed the same “crime” a the kid who brings one in case he needs it in a fight, but their reasons are different enough that different punishments are called for. Similarly, lying about where you live for purposes of getting your kids into the safe school doesn’t deserve the same punishment as lying for, say, tax dodging.

    As much as I sometimes wish for people to be more logical and less emotional, I do think we have to use some judgement in applying the law. And if that means we risk idiots who will make judgement calls on criteria I disapprove of, it’s a risk I feel is necessary.

  76. “And if that means we risk idiots who will make judgement calls on criteria I disapprove of, it’s a risk I feel is necessary.”

    If only more people felt that way.

  77. Late to the party here. The idea that it’s unreasonable to list one of the childrens’ parent’s residences as their primary, even if they don’t live there the majority of the time, is kinda lame (think of all the people who do this with uncles or cousins to get in-state tuition rates). The idea that someone should do time over this is breathtakingly absurd. Is the violent crime rate low enough in ohio that the courts can waste their time on this?

    To top it off, I think the following qoute from that article tells what you need to know:

    “The unusual case apparently has no documented precedence in felony court proceedings statewide.”

    So why persue this? The only reasons, from an outsider’s perspective, are pretty ugly.

  78. I just want to be clear: I did not mean to imply in my last sentence that anyone who would use criteria for decision-making was an idiot. That was poorly worded. I had a specific example in mind, and it caused me to word my comment more harshly than intended.

    I also meant to point out that it was a risk worth taking because I assume that those decision makers are not serving for life. Either they are subject to re-election or their jury duty will expire, and appeal is always an option.

  79. Gary@71: But I taught my two sons the principle of logical consequences. If you choose to break a rule (or law) and a penalty follows, then logically you chose to risk that penalty being applied to you if caught. And if you are caught and hit with the penalty, well then, that was the logical consequence of your own choice. Her conviction should stand.

    The problem there is you conflate two distinctly different things. The first is whether she broke the law or not. The second being the issue of whether the law that makes her actions a crime is a moral law in teh first place.

    We *know* she broke the law. No one is arguing that. The point of this thread is whether the law that convicted her is moral and correct, or whether as members of a democratic society, should we take it upon ourselves to notify our representatives to change the law.

    What you did was really little more than an appeal to authority fallacy. i.e. She broke the law. Her conviction should stand. The law itself cannot be questioned. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

  80. I only hope that this discussion on Scalzi’s blog spurs one or more commenters to get involved in making school funding more equal in those places where there are funding disparities.
    When I was getting my masters in social work, I did a good bit of my training in schools. One was incredibly well resourced, the other, not. The factors influencing student achievement, in my experience, are many. There seems to be a baseline funding level that is necessary for high achievement, but not sufficient on its own. The other factors I saw as most pertinent were: parents supportive of student reading and homework at home, teachers that cared about each child’s overall well-being, neighborhoods that were safe and had recreational opportunities, and a school administrative leadership team that was flexible and demanded high performance from all stakeholders. Anyway, I think we need to get baseline funding sufficient for all schools. If local property taxes are a school’s main funding source, then unequal outcomes across neighborhoods are pretty much guaranteed. As someone upstream commented, it benefits everyone to get all kids achieving highly.
    Finally, as a generally comment to whether this woman deserved what she got, I am less concerned that the law treats a class of crimes as equal, then whether the punishments are fair. And in this case, I think a felony goes too far, mostly because felony convictions destroy your future employment prospects so well.

  81. There may not have been racism involved in the prosecution itself, but I find it interesting that in the articles and blog posts that _don’t_ include a picture of the mother, there’s a lot more comments expressing sympathy, and almost none at all actively attacking her. Take from that what you will.

  82. She didn’t really get time for it. She was sentenced to time served plus one extra day to make sure she didn’t think she got off on anything, she also has a felony conviction to disclose that she likes to fiddle the rules to future employers (and keep her from jobs that you really do not want anyone with a predilection to fiddling the rules anywhere near). It was a slap on the wrist sentence no matter how you slice it. She broke the rules, she knew she broke the rules, she claimed it was justified, presented her arguments to a jury of her peers who disagreed with her. This was a textbook case of how the law should work.

  83. My mom did the same thing when my parents divorced in 1976 and I was in first grade. I “officially” lived at my grandmother’s address while we lived in a different part of town. When I was in third grade, my mom bought a house in the neighborhood of the school I’d been attending and it all slipped quietly under the radar.

  84. Sorry, but being Canadian, this is the first I’ve heard of this. My first thought is, “You mean the judicial system is using taxpayers money and civil servant’s time to prosecute THIS?”

    The woman has children in school. That’s a good thing. So she’s payed taxes to the wrong district? What kind of brain damaged system thinks that depriving her of a prospective living and her children of their primary caregiver for 10 days is some form of justice?

    Oh. That kind of system. When the revolution comes, these people will be the first stood up against the wall and serenaded by William Hung (I’m for peaceful revolution, but not against psychological/aural torture)… And THAT will be justice.

  85. crypticmirror@90: She broke the rules, she knew she broke the rules, she claimed it was justified, presented her arguments to a jury of her peers who disagreed with her. This was a textbook case of how the law should work.

    Another textbook example of appeal to authority fallacy.

    We are yet still (barely) a democracy of some sort or another. We get to decide whether the law is just and moral or not. If not, we get to change it through the democratic process. Part of that proces requires people discussing specific cases where the law failed, why it is wrong, etc.

    I love it when folks ask “Is this law right?” and other folks with an authoritarian streak in them come out with “The law was broken! Do not question the law!”

  86. You don’t get to pick and choose which laws you obey. That is a fundamental building block of society. Once they are set you either campaign to change it, or you live with it. If you knowingly break it then you prepare yourself for the consequences and take them. It harms society as a whole, and undermines the social fabric if people start thinking of laws as a personal opt in. There are plenty of laws I think are stupid, but others are fine with, and there are plenty of rules and laws I personally like that others hate and find unreasonable. However society works because we obey them all, even if we do work to change or modify them. The law was broken, but if you think it is wrong campaign for its repeal, in the meantime you live with it.

  87. If someone stole $30,000, it’s grand larceny any way you look at it. That’s a felony-level crime.

    Think on it this way: in Ohio, $30K is a good teacher’s salary. This mother stole the equivalent from the district.

    Now, if people want to attack the law’s validity, then we’re moving into another discussion. Social contract theory anyone?

  88. As a parent in a district (San Francisco Unified) with complete open enrollment, I admit I’m feeling less sympathetic than many people to this mother. SF has a number of excellent public schools that are recognized as such, a number of excellent public schools that go unrecognized, and a whole lot of crappy ones.

    Every year hundreds of suburban parents find a way to claim a San Francisco residence and enroll in the most popular schools (particularly those with foreign language programs, where the district excels). Because school assignments are made by lottery and there are class size caps, every one of those parents is kicking a local resident into a less desirable school. My feeling: if you want the school, move into the city. We have friends who have two kids in a 1-bedroom apartment so that they can legally retain a desirable SF school assignment, and know others who live with extended family for the same reason. We are fortunate enough to have our kids in a great school that’s below most people’s radar (and it has spaces available for out-of-district students, incidentally), but we were unable to attend four schools closer to our home because of high demand. A few dozen places at those schools, we found out last year, were until recently taken by people who lived outside the city and claimed false addresses. I don’t think they are better parents than we are because they are willing to cheat my kids out of a good education to get the school they want.

    If SF finds out you’re claiming a false address, you have the option to finish out the school year and then (a) move into the city or (b) apply in the lottery as an out-of-district transfer for any open places remaining after city residents are placed or (c) go back to one of the many fine suburban schools surrounding the city. I don’t see how this is unfair. If you’re temporarily homeless or in transition, they’ll work with you until you’re resettled, and this seems reasonable too. But lying about your address for years on end without making any effort to move into the district? That’s unfair to those of us who just want a chance to go to a decent nearby school. We were lucky that we found a good school that wasn’t too far away despite these people. But it was just that: luck.

  89. cryptic, that’s just appeal to authority again. As long as you refuse to directly address a law as invalid and immoral, and instead simply state “the law must be obeyed”, you’re appealing to authority.

  90. In my 11th school (junior year), my parents moved yet again. I said ENOUGH! I listed my uncle’s address as residence.

    Near the end of my senior year, the vice principal had reason to visit my parents (what can I say? I was kind of wild) and he had no trouble finding our home. The school knew all along I didn’t live at my “official” address. However, besides being somewhat wild, I also took down a 3.9GPA.

  91. You don’t get to pick and choose which laws you obey. That is a fundamental building block of society.

    That’s not even remotely true. People pick and choose which laws to obey constantly every day. And I’d wager you see them do it continually. This morning I drove to the train station on a highway, going 70 miles per hour in a 55-mph area. Every car on the road with me was exceeding the speed limit. I saw someone run a red light and another make in illegal u-turn, since it 5AM and the street was deserted (but the light had not been programmed for this reality). People declare things on their taxes that inflate their numbers. People purchase bootleg movies, download materials off of the internet for free and in some cases engage in sexual relationships that are illegal if someone reports them. People can and DO pick and choose which laws to obey, oftentimes because they feel the laws are wrong and are powerless to effect a change in them. Sometime just because they find it convenient. And unlike the more serious crimes of murder or theft, these go largely unprosecuted and unenforced. Agreeing in principle to a set of rules of interaction IS a basis for society…but many societies have wide bands of behavior and different members are afforded different privileges. Kim Jong Il likes Mercedes and champagne, for example.

    As for this particular case? What I find odd is the assignment of a Felony, but only a few days imprisonment. One could get a misdemeanor DUI charge in the state and serve six months. The felony charge itself is the issue for most, I’d wager. It’s an albatross around the neck, much moreso than any particular financial penalty.

  92. Time for me to weigh in. Yep, you BET I kept my son in the school he was in as we moved from place to place to get settled. Respect for education is a necessity for our children, no matter where we live. I didn’t perpetrate a “fraud” against the school district. There were those who would have fought tooth and nail with me to keep him right where he was. This gal was treating her children with respect, not disdain for the law. I won’t justify the other things she did, but I will fight for her right and others’ rights to give their children the best outcome possible.

  93. You of course pick and choose which laws you obey (that, of course, presumes that you know the laws and statutes involved in the situation you’re in.) Violating the laws and statutes can have penalties, and you may have to pay the penalties. We’re having a “day of sliding” here in Minnesota, and yet again a whole bunch of people are discovering that the laws of physics apply to their vehicles, and they are not — to their surprise! — excluded. You estimate the risks, place your chips, and roll the dice. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Sometimes you win big (getting your children better than average educations) and with the same roll lose big (getting a felony conviction.)

    She can’t, after six years of complaints by the school district, lay a colorable claim of ignorance of the rules and regulations of the school district. She appears to have done far more than make simple mistakes or take cope with situations driven by other’s makings over that time. She though she’d be excluded, eventually, and wasn’t.

    I feel sorry for her kids. I suspect they’re going to blame a whole lot of people other than their mother for what happened, and that will discolor a lot of their future relationships with society, probably negating a lot of what she thought to bring them.

    It’s sad.

  94. All I know is that my daughter lucked out and got into a very good local magnate school that so far has had ZERO problem working with us to develop the IEP she needs. She also goes to a town supported counseling service and gets her much needed psychiatric service from the same place. It took me 9 months to find a child psychiatrist that was both taking new patients and took my health insurance (from a very common provider and it’s a very comprehensive plan). I lucked out in finally finding the one she currently goes to. While the service is sponsored by the town I don’t benefit financially from that because of how good my health plan is and because of how much money I make, which is not all that much.

    Needless to say I need to maintain town residence for her to continue both in her school and with her counselor and psychiatrist.

    However, my husband’s unemployment insurance runs out in November. If it does and he hasn’t found a job we will have to move. If, ghod forbid, we end up having to move outside of our town limits I will lie my freckled ass off to make sure that she can stay in her school and remain with her counselor and psychiatrist.

    If it became necessary I’d take the jail time and felony conviction.

  95. I think this is one case where California’s “State takes all the school funds and re-distributes them equally, fixed amount per student” helps (generally, it sucks, but it avoids someone getting charged with fraud for this sort of thing… it’s all the State’s money going where the student does, anyways).

  96. “But without any laws of this kind or any prosecution of people who break them, EVERYONE is going to figure out a way to go to the best school. ”

    You mean there will be only one school in the entire country? Oooh, the libertarians are going to love that one.

    More seriously, if EVERYONE can figure out how to attend the “best” school (in whatever sense you mean the word), more power to them. Education crisis solved.

    I don’t blame her for lying in the first place, but I do have to blame her for not quitting while she was ahead when she got caught. Once the bureaucrats have their eye on you when you are actually lying/disobeying a law, more lies won’t work. The fastest, cheapest way out is to comply with their rules, even if it means actually moving in with Grandpa into a bigger place that can actually house the whole family.

    I can’t call this case “stupidity is a felony, again” because I can’t really call her “stupid”, but the bottom line is her biggest offense was not knowing how to work the system.

  97. @ Geirge 103

    Having the money follow the student is a pretty good system, because it allows parents to choose where to send there child for a public education, which also allows parents to choose charter schools, because they are paid for with public funds. Unfortunately the charter schools in California are having to fight with the public teachers in CA, because they view the charter schools as a threat to their income because charter schools are privately managed and don’t have to hire through the union. This is pretty unfortunate because it isn’t putting the interests of their students first.

  98. I used to live in Copley. One of the things I liked best was that it was a “step-up” town – an affordable place where folks climbing out of poverty could live once they started getting ahead financially – and very diverse ethnically, as far as I could see. I rented in a large complex that did have subsidized units, so that was another possibility.

    The schools in Copley do have some frills that the Akron Public Schools don’t have.

    But it is also very possible to get a good education in Akron, including at Buchtel High School, which is (wow.) where this lady was employed. I wonder if that wasn’t part of the problem: that the schools were good enough to employ her, but not good enough for her kids to attend. Interesting.

    While what she did was wrong, I agree with other posters here that “felony” seems too strong of a charge. We need to fix school funding in OH, and remove the need for situations like this. All kids should have the same chance for a good education.

  99. Good for her for caring so much about her kids’ education.

    If every parent cared deeply about the quality of their kids’ education, I don’t think there would be any bad schools.

  100. jas@13: The only thing on there that gives me pause is it says she ignored repeated attempts to “resolve the residency issue” over a few years

    aj@17: her continued misrepresentations over a period of years,

    Dorothy@96: lying about your address for years on end

    htom@101: She can’t, after six years of complaints by the school district, lay a colorable claim of ignorance

    I click on the link in the original post. It says she sent her kids to the “wrong” school from June 2006 to August 2008. I googled around a bit and could only find one other article that had speciifc dates, and it too said the same thing.

    How does *two* years get expanded into a few years, a number of years, years on end, and *six* years?

    I do note that every single post that appears to stretch out the duration of the offense also happens to forward the veiw that she should be prosecuted, which is an interesting pattern.

  101. my 2 cents:

    I don’t know enough about the particulars of the case to pass judgement – but it appears that the she was caught (along w/ 25+ others) gaming the system everyone else worked with the school district to ‘resolve’ the residency issues – so the school district appeard to be willing to work with her on some level – how intrasigant was she that the district felt justified in persuing a felony conviction? what parts of the story don’t we know?

    would you lie on form to make sure your kids can eat? would you steal a loaf of bread? (I would)

    I don’t know if she was acting entirely from a posistion of ‘noble despiration’ – why would she lie about her income, and military deployments? why wouln’t she move into the district if she wanted her kids to go there for multiple years? why wouldn’t she move in with her father?

    The free lunch program is a safety net for children in need – there is a finite amount of resources for these programs – lying about your income to take advantage of these programs when you don’t NEED to – is depriving another child in need (and therefore is an evil act) – again I don’t know the particulars of this case – but abusing the system just because you figured out how – is wrong. Claims that the system is flawed and therefore it’s ok to cheat sound less noble when the cheating is for personal gain vs. desperate need.

    if an individual lied to get food stamps – and sold the food stamps to buy booze/tobacco/ any other non-essencial that would also be an abuse of a safety net program and therefore evil.

  102. Greg — I googled the story and read at least a half-dozen different ones. The figure “six years” stuck in my mind, I’m not sure which story it came from, or how the counting was done. At a guess, it started either with the initial enrollment that was six years ago, or someone’s computation that the $30,000 would pay for six years of tuition charges at some school. (Looks in history; used different computer, that one by default doesn’t save browsing history; googles again, can’t find it, but there are lots more stories today than yesterday.)

    I’m sorry for the error, and apologize.

  103. Greg@87 I find the phrase “appeal to authority fallacy” interesting as it implies that to say a conviction should stand because the law was broken is always a fallacious argument. Surely not. We have a lot of good moral law on the books that when broken the convictions should stand.

    Actually, I was not in any way addressing the issue of whether this particular Ohio law was a good one or not. I have no problem with our democratic process repealing bad laws. I think you were chastising me for not addressing the morality of the law in this thread. So let me address the Ohio law. Not too good in my view. Let the Ohioans change it. Until they do, they enacted the law. Ohio citizens need to live within their existing law until they changed it was all I meant to say. I was not arguing the wisdom of the Ohio law per se.

    What parent wants their child in an underperforming school? Sadly, so long as school officials set attendance boundary lines for specific campuses, there will be parents willing to lie to get their child in a better school outside the zone wherein they reside when their assigned school is underperforming. Why not have no attendance zones within a State? Any parent can send their kid to any school in the State no matter where they live within the State. If a school is oversubscribed for its capacity, hold an unbiased lottery to fill the capacity. Lottery losers shift to their second campus choices.

    While on a local school board in 1992 I once argued for this open policy. The vote went 6 to 1 against me. Not even the board member who seconded my motion for the policy change (to enable the Board vote) chose to vote for the motion. We continued to tell parents where they had to send their kids to school as a Board. Thereafter we continued to catch parents lying about where they and their kids lived in order to attend a better school or play on a better football team. Hey, it’s Texas. Football is King.

  104. John, my mother was a struggling single parent and did the exact same thing with me. Thanks to her (and I assume the complicity or at least laxity of someone in the school department), I was able to go all the way through high school with my friends, rather than be yanked to a different school every time we moved. My own son was forced to attend a dangerous, underperforming school in our neighborhood, while all the rich kids in the area go to private schools. The system is wrong.

  105. WizarDru @99: You’re drawing a false line between ‘serious’ and trivial crimes. Plenty of people commit quite serious crimes (theft, rape, even murder) for all the reasons you mentioned; they think the laws are stupid, they don’t think the behavior is particularly wrong, because they just find it convenient to break the law, and so on. Quite often, they get away with it. “You don’t get to pick and choose which laws you obey” is not a literal statement that people are physically incapable of breaking the law, obviously. It means that “because I feel like it” and “it benefits me” are not actually moral rationale sfor lawbreaking.

    Dorothy @96: I’m intrigued, because what I hear from SF parents is exactly the opposite; that if you get lucky enough to win the lottery and get into one of the good SF schools you’re golden, but if not, you’re screwed, and SF’s system for school assignment is very difficult to predict (say, by moving into the school’s neighborhood). A lot of the SF-suburb parents I talk to say they would never live in SF because it’s damn near impossible to get your child into a good school unless you’re willing to pay for private schools. (And in that I’m excluding the sort of parent who just assumes city schools = bad, suburban schools = good.)

    Ulysses @92: Did you actually read the article?

  106. “You’re drawing a false line between ‘serious’ and trivial crimes. Plenty of people commit quite serious crimes (theft, rape, even murder) for all the reasons you mentioned; they think the laws are stupid, they don’t think the behavior is particularly wrong, because they just find it convenient to break the law, and so on. Quite often, they get away with it. “You don’t get to pick and choose which laws you obey” is not a literal statement that people are physically incapable of breaking the law, obviously. It means that “because I feel like it” and “it benefits me” are not actually moral rationale sfor lawbreaking.”

    Well, sure…I’m hyperbolizing here. Crypticmirror seemed to be drawing some absolute that people never, ever break the law and it sounded to me like there was an implication of ‘no one breaks the law and that all laws therein broken are considered equally heinous.” At least, that was how I perceived the tone. Clearly, there are radically different attitudes about breaking some laws and there is some lack of parity in them. If Bernie Madoff had only managed to scarper $18,000 instead of $18 Billion, we’d view him pretty differently. It’s not the crime, but the scale of it. I find speeding and breaking traffic laws to similar: going 75 mph in a 55 zone isn’t considered serious…until it leads to a lethal traffic accident. Cheating on your taxes? Get $50 back and you’re smart….stiff the IRS and local government for a million and your a white-collar criminal who’s harmed the local community. The worst possible outcome here was that she got free lunches her family wasn’t entitled to that would have taken from another family that was…but I don’t know if that was a situation where the budget would not cover another family. I’m ignorant of the situation on the ground, but I think it interesting that if she had moved her kids in with the father of her kids (forgetting issues aside here, for a moment), then nothing she did would have been illegal. I’m not suggesting that this mom be excused for her crime, if she’s been found guilty of what she’s been accused of; I do think the application of a felony charge is, if not outlandish, certainly sounds somewhat excessive.

  107. oops

    my 2 cents re school funding and boundaries

    1) students should be able to attend the schools closest to where they live – this facilitates community involvement with the school, transportation, parent involvement etc. schools should serve the communities that they are part of

    2) residents of a district should be able to vote for additional tax levies etc to enhance thier local schools- and residents are reasonable to expect that those dollars are being used for residents

    3) students who begin attenting a particular school, who then have extenuating circumstances should be able to continue attending that school – for the remainder of the school year (by default), longer, on a case by case basis schools should evaluate/ work with parents to determine what is best for the student – and there shoud be a formal process.

    4) I have no patience for greedy whiners- (usually these whiners went out of thier way to buy an expensive house in town “x” and can afford to pay the taxes ) “I don’t have kids – I should not have to pay taxes for schools” or “I have 1 kid – the Jones family has 4 – why aren’t thier taxes 4x higher?” or “the local school isn’t good enough/not to my taste – I should get a credit/voucher to send my kid to a private school/ school in a neighboring district” these arguerments are logically equivalent to ” my house has never cought fire – why should I pay taxes to support a fire department?” the quality of the schools in your community contribute the that property value you love so much – its WHY YOU MOVED HERE IN THE 1ST PLACE!

    5) I know none of my points are valid unless ALL public schools are of good quality and capable of delivering a quality education and a safe environment (and that this needs to be solved for points 1-3 to work)

    6) school “choice” – if you can afford to move to the area served by the district you prefer, and choose not to – you are one of those greedy/ entitled whiners (see point 4) –

  108. crypticmirror: So, I take it that you believe that civil disobedience is never justified? If you’d been on a jury back in the jim crow era south, you’d vote to convict someone who drank from the “wrong” water fountain? After all, they Violated The Law.

  109. Violating the laws and statutes can have penalties, and you may have to pay the penalties. We’re having a “day of sliding” here in Minnesota, and yet again a whole bunch of people are discovering that the laws of physics apply to their vehicles, and they are not — to their surprise! — excluded.

    It’s a crime to violate the laws of physics in Minnesota?

  110. mythago@113: The SF school lottery is like a huge hazing ritual that (understandably) turns off parents by the thousands. Thus the old SF joke
    “What does every San Francisco kid get for their 5th birthday?”
    “A new address in Marin.”

    The good SF schools are very, very good. They are good enough that there are hundreds of suburban parents willing to fake an address and give it a shot–the city identified a few hundred of them just last year and kicked them out. Lots of parents who try do poorly in the lottery and go back to their perfectly good suburban schools, just as lots of SF parents do poorly in the lottery and go private or move to the suburbs. The 5% or so who win the lottery and get a spot at one of the trophy public schools or desirable language immersion schools, or at Lowell, apparently often take them. (Or keep them after moving to the suburbs.) There is no neighborhood assignment preference to speak of, although the new system attempted to change that slightly.

    That said, you are not screwed by not getting into one of the top 10 most desirable public schools, as we have learned. We are in the magnet program of a school that gets absolutely zero buzz–there were fewer applicants than places last year. Yet my son is in a K class with two teachers that is capped at 20 students (and for the first half of the year, only had 17), is learning Japanese at a pace that has him correcting the Hiragana on the flashcards we bought (!) and holding brief conversations with a native-speaking neighbor (!!), has a beautiful vegetable garden from which he picks (and now eats) kale and Swiss chard, has a piano in every room, a jazz program funded by federal grants, an outstanding science program taught by visiting medical school students, a full-time librarian and a library nicer than the local public library, etc. etc. There are probably 20-30 schools like ours in the city that are great but not popular, probably because the test scores are low–the non-magnet portion of the school is poor, largely English-language learners, and primarily lives in public housing. They are getting a great education but starting from a low base.

    However there are also ~20-30 public schools in SF that are everyone’s nightmare of an urban public school, right down to the metal detectors at the doors of the kindergarten classrooms.

    Where people go wrong in the lottery is assuming that there is no middle ground between getting into one of the top 10 schools that get over 1,000 applicants for 20 places and getting one of the nightmare schools. In our preschool last year we were the only family who got any one of our picks in the lottery, and that was because we were the only family who listed (or even toured) any school other than the top 10 most popular ones. We have shared our experience with all of our friends going through the lottery this year, but only a few are willing to even VISIT the schools that are not already anointed as the best in the city. Those that have all found 2-3 schools they are virtually guaranteed to get into and where they feel comfortable sending their kids. So overall I would say that the lottery is not at all difficult to predict–you have maybe a 1-3% chance of getting into a popular school, and a 75-100% chance of getting into a good but unpopular school. But parents are kind of lemming-like and no one has the chance to learn from past mistakes (everyone goes through the lottery just once). So from that perspective the system is hopelessly flawed.

    On the other hand, if you are willing to do research and visit lots of schools (on one tour, we were the only parents who came!) to find one you like, you have the advantage that there will be no competition and your kid will get a great education and you don’t have to stress about the process. The only remaining issue is dealing with disbelief from parents who moved to Marin and can’t imagine that any SF public school other than the ones they couldn’t get into could be any good. This gets tiresome but is a small price to pay. And of course we can always end any conversation like that by talking about our 10-minute commute.

  111. when i was a probation officer, i had people on my caseload for domestic violence, assault, multiple dui convictions, and a plethora of other VERY SERIOUS OFFENSES who never saw a day in jail/prison. that this women did ACTUAL time because she wanted her children to get a better education is ludicrous. did she break the law? yes. did she deserve to do time for it? no way. does she deserve to have a FELONY RECORD now because of it? absolutely not.

    they could have reduced this charge to a misdemeanor and put her on probation, with an order to pay some sort of restitution to the school district, and made their point just as effectively. i’m not excusing her actions, she committed a crime and deserves to be punished for it, but i think the court system’s values are seriously skewed if this is what they are spending their time and our money prosecuting.

  112. Sibley — the Judge is rather harsh. No appeals. Sometimes mercy is given without request. Execution for minor errors has happened.

  113. Sibley — the Judge is rather harsh. No appeals. Sometimes mercy is given without request. Execution for minor errors has happened

    Silbey, thanks. And my point was that invoking the laws of physics to talk about the laws of man is a bit silly.

  114. David — my point was that the laws of man are usually much more flexible than the laws of nature. (We won’t get in to quantum ….)

  115. Who said anything about no appeals? She’s got the right to appeal. If she thinks that there’s been some legal or procedural error, she should do it. That’s why we have the right to appeal.

    But the court of appeals can’t rule on whether the case should have been filed or not. The only entity with the power to do that is the state bar association, on a complaint of prosecutorial misconduct. And if she ADMITTED to falsifying documents, that’s probably not gonna fly.

    Is she sympathetic? Kinda. You know, if my kids needed something, I’d get it, come heck or high water. But if I had to break the law to get it, then I’d ‘fess up to it, explain, see what I could do for the kids, and take my lumps. That doesn’t make my actions right, no matter what it was that I did, if I ignored any other systems available to me for help before just reaching out and grabbing it with both fists through lies and deception.

    Motive is not an element of theft in Ohio. It doesn’t matter if there’s a good reason, or the dude down the street could arguably say that he “needed” to break into my house and take everything out of my fridge, my computer, and my television because he’s starving and homeless. There’s a big difference between someone knocking on my door and asking for dinner and someone breaking in and taking my stuff. And that’s what we have here. We don’t have a mom who asked for help; we have a mom who took what she thought she needed without giving anyone a chance to help her. There’s a reason we have laws like this.

    Sympathetic, but still criminal.

    Oh, and theft is a felony in Ohio anytime the value of the property or services stolen is over $500. Can we all agree that $30,000 is well over that amount? And this value line applies as well to forgery, fraud, and other such offenses.

  116. I never had a teacher like that, I’m not exactly a foster kid, but I got bounced around since my dad was in the military. Every three years or so I had to come to a school and readjust myself to their curriculum. Reading comprehension was easy, yet I was always in a rut with math. I went from arithmetic to pre-algebra and none of them gave a shit about filling in the blanks. I flunked most of the time. We moved from the most lenient school to a stern mistress. It was horrible for me to try and learn catch up. My brother (, who is amazingly eloquent, is still bad at math. I’m not much better, but I like computers and know programming language, so I understand the overall picture, kinda.

  117. I don’t want to haunt this, but being mexican american doesn’t haunt us to be willing to churn lawns or manage plants.

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