A story that touched and angered me last week was the sentence of 2 felony counts of record tampering handed to Kelley Williams-Bolar. The mother of two in Akron, Ohio, Williams-Bolar lied about where her children lived so that they could attend a better school in nearby Copely.

Williams-Bolar says her children did live with her father for part of the year, but the school hired a private investigator that documented Williams-Bolar taking her kids from her house to the Copely district’s bus stop. There is no open enrollment between the schools, and she would have had to pay around $30,000 in tuition to have her children attend the better-performing public school. Williams-Bolar was on her way to becoming a teacher, but a felony record would prohibit her from getting her license.

Was she guilty of a felony? According to the jury, yes. But many people feel the district’s decision to bring a lawsuit against Williams-Bolar was punitive. Still more believe that it’s ridiculous that she should have to choose between her children’s education and committing a crime. Gov. Kasich of Ohio has pledged to investigate her case further, saying:

“Our laws exist for a reason and they must be enforced, but the idea that a woman would become a convicted felon for wanting a better future for her children is something that has rightly raised a lot of concern with people, including me.”

This case literally hits home for me: I grew up in Findlay, Ohio, and our public schools did have inter- and intra-district open enrollment. My family sent my brother and I to different middle schools. We lived equidistant from two middle schools, and the two schools excelled in different areas that my brother and I were respectively interested in.

We only had one high school, but each year a handful of students from smaller districts nearby applied to transfer in. You probably have heard one of them – Ben Roethlisberger. I think he’s going to play a game this weekend, right?

This summer, the scuttlebutt in Findlay was that Ben had listed Cory-Rawson, not Findlay, as his hometown. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

“Why the change? Roethlisberger will only say that he did not actually live in Findlay, but went to Findlay High School.”

If you’re rooting for the Packers on Sunday, you might be wishing Findlay didn’t have open enrollment. But take it from someone who saw her brother excel in a different school, take it from Kelley Williams-Bolar, take it from the Missouri Supreme Court: ALL children have the right to an accredited, appropriate education, and the right of parents to seek the best education for their child should not arbitrarily end at the district line.

Photo courtesy of Jayel Aheram under a Creative Commons license.