The ironies don’t stop there. Connecticut is the third wealthiest state in the nation, home to many of the same Wall Street billionaires who created and have profited from our current economic crisis—the same crisis that is leading to crushing public education cutbacks throughout the country and the desperation that has local authorities assigning what limited funds they do have to sweeping their schools clean of these innocent children who live at the wrong address (and have parents who care enough to notice).
This assault on aspiration is unheard of in a society where such fudging of addresses has been going on for as long as public education has existed. My own parents used my uncle’s address, less than two blocks away, so I could attend one public elementary school over the one our address dictated. My dad and his brother belonged to the same neighborhood association, shopped at the same grocery store, and paid the same level of property taxes, but one school was simply better than the other and my parents—both educators—wanted me to have the best.
That’s precisely what these other mothers wanted for their children. In the Akron case, Williams-Bolar’s home was repeatedly robbed, her neighborhood was unsafe, and the local school satisfied a mere 4 out of 26 standards on the latest Ohio Department of Education Report Card and had a graduation rate of 76%. The Copley-Fairlawn school in her father’s neighborhood (where he paid the appropriate taxes) met all 26 standards and graduated 97.5% of its students. Is it merely a coincidence of geography that the majority of students at the Akron school are Black and the majority at the suburban one are White? Or is this part of what Syracuse’s Watkins refers to as the willful perpetuation of “academic apartheid” in our society?
The state of Ohio has insisted that there is no racial profiling taking place, citing that 48 parents were investigated in this shakeout, two of which are Asian, while 15 are White. But only Williams-Bolar was jailed.
All except 10 days of her five-year sentence were suspended, but Williams-Bolar must perform 80 hours of community service and she’ll be on probation for three years. Even more damning, although at the time of her arrest, she was just 12 credits away from earning her teaching license, her felony conviction will bar her from teaching in the state. Worst of all though, her young daughters are left with no solid options for their education, a reality that is almost guaranteed to adversely impact their options for life.
To paraphrase Watkins, no one seems to care about these families. No one seems to care about what will become of them or the legions of predominantly Black children currently receiving a subpar education not because their parents don’t crave more for them, but because of where they live. All that seems to matter is that prosperous, successful, mostly White districts, keep these children out of their schools.
If only our education officials, our law enforcers, and politicians would be as determined in their efforts to offer every child an excellent education as they are to prosecute those whose crime is simply that they seek one, imagine how different—how much more prosperous and beautiful and united—our so-called union would be.