Akron — Yesterday and today, Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere have been hopping with news about an Akron, Ohio mom jailed for sending her daughters to school in a suburban district where she did not live.
Kelley Williams-Bolar, a single mom living in public housing, was sentenced to 10 days of jail, three years of probation and 80 hours of community service for falsifying residency records, the Akron Beacon Journal reports.
One person shocked by the unfairness of the verdict was Caitlin Lord, a Massachusetts woman who decided to switch from outrage to action and try to make a difference. She created a petition on Change.org that went viral and has received more than 3,200 signatures in fewer than 24 hours. The petition asks Ohio Governor John Kasich, as well as officials in Williams-Bolar’s case, to reduce her sentence on appeal.
Words from Caitlin Lord who started the petition and why:
“I first read about Williams-Bolar’s sentencing on tumblr.com, and was shocked to find there was little to no organized activism happening in regard to the sentencing. I was inspired to create the petition for several reasons. The most glaringly obvious of those reasons being that it needed to be done, and no one had done it yet. At the time of this email [9 p.m. EST, Jan. 25, 2011], there is still little to no national news coverage of this case. I wanted to do whatever was within my power to ensure that this travesty of justice would not slip between the cracks of our fast-paced, 24-hour news cycle.”
“I am also a single mother, and can identify with Williams-Bolar’s desire to do everything and anything possible to ensure that her daughters were safe and receiving the quality education they deserved. If only everyone loved their children as much as Williams-Bolar loves hers.”
“I got the word out originally by posting the link on personal blogs where Williams-Bolar’s case was being discussed. I placed perhaps four or five links pointing to the petition and Williams-Bolar’s supporters did the rest. After only several hours, there had already been hundreds of tweets, facebook postings, and email invites to sign. Change.org made it very easy for myself and petitioners to pass the petition around via twitter, facebook, tumblr, and their ilk. I knew it was an optimal place to spread the word quickly and effectively. The petition took on a life of its own because this issue is one that many people feel strongly about.”
“I was also inspired by a sense of infuriating incredulousness concerning the case itself. Although Ms. Williams-Bolar did indeed break a law, her punishment far exceeded her crime… which was victimless. She had no prior criminal record. Our government rewards bank barons with billions of dollars for illegal and unfair business practices that have financially ruined millions, but a loving, hardworking single mother like Williams-Bolar has her entire future erased with the whack of a county court gavel. Rapists regularly receive far less extreme sentences… for crimes far, far more heinous. What message does legislation like that send to every day Americans about the kind of justice our court system values?”
“When the punishment does not fit the crime, when those punished are disproportionately people of color and/or economically disadvantaged, when victimless crimes like Williams-Bolar’s are punished more severely than violent crimes such as rape, assault and domestic abuse, there is no way for me to feel truly safe or protected by our courts. The fact that this petition has blown up so quickly and received so many signatures in such a small amount of time is evidence that I’m nowhere near alone in this belief.”
“My hope is that the petition will communicate to Ohio state legislature that Americans do not agree with Williams-Bolar’s sentencing. This is not a resolution to the problems inherent with our public school system that we are satisfied with or approve of. There are many ways that our government- local, state, and federal- can begin to remedy the social and economical sicknesses which drove Ms. Williams-Bolar to defraud the Summit County school system in the first place. Using the full power and weight of the courts to punish individuals like Williams-Bolar to such a severe and ridiculous degree is not it.”