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The following letter was written in response to the prosecution, conviction and sentencing of Ms. Kelly Williams-Bolar on two counts of felony (tampering with records) in the Summit County, Ohio court of Judge Patricia A. Cosgrove. On January 18, 2011, Cosgrove sentenced Williams-Bolar to 10 days in jail, two years of probation, and 80 hours of community service for sending her two daughters to a school in Williams-Bolar’s father’s school district. The felony charges threaten the mother’s ability to become a licensed teacher and complete the bachelor’s degree in education, of which she is merely a few credits shy.
The Honorable Patricia Cosgrove, Summit County Court of Common Pleas
209 High St.
Akron, OH 44308
Dear Judge Cosgrove,
You missed an important opportunity to affect real change in our society—to undermine and offer a counter-narrative to the unfortunate, shameful, and antiquated history and trend of unfair treatment of at-risk women and children, and particularly women and children of color, in this country. You chose, instead, to support a system that tempted a loving mother to seek alternatives for her children, for her income dictated that these young American citizens remain without resources and fair opportunities.
I am sorry that you were not brave enough to consider announcing to Ms. Williams-Bolar, your court, and our society that her actions were not criminal but rather, instead, that the criminality lie in the circumstances which prompted her decisions to seek better educational opportunities for her children. Her children should have the same education as those in Ms. Williams-Bolar’s father’s neighborhood—the same neighborhood in which he pays taxes.
Moreover, and perhaps even more disconcerting is how your ruling damaged if not paralyzed the mobility of the Williams-Bolar family. Through your ruling, Ms. Williams-Bolar cannot finish her undergraduate educational degree and become certified to teach. You undermined the equivalent to nearly 4 years of college that Williams-Bolar completed while also maintaining a single-mother household that valued and honored education. In a world where teachers perpetually struggle to involve parents in their children’s education, you punished a woman who not only cared enough to seek ways to secure her own children’s educations, but who planned a career educating others. You made a horrible mistake.
Shame on you. Shame on our court system that supports this work on the bench—and, in particular, your ruling concerning Ms. Williams-Bolar’s case. And shame on us for not challenging this system in such a way that Ms. Williams-Bolar and countless other women and children should have the same educational environments as you, your children and your three grandchildren.
May your mailbox be flooded and your conscious moved.
Sincerely and sadly,
Nicole A. Spigner, educator, feminist, woman, citizen
Nicole A. Spigner is a Ph.D. student in Vanderbilt University’s English program. She received her M.A. and B.A. in English from University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include the intersections of 19th Century African American and Caribbean literature and classical Greek and Roman texts, depictions of conjure women in 19th and 20th Century African American and Caribbean Literature, as well as black feminist theory, New World syncretic religions, Vedic philosophy and African Diasporic folklore.