It’s the classic question: is it still wrong to steal food if you do it to feed your starving children?
Kelley Williams-Bolar, a poor black woman from Ohio, faced the same problem in her own life but slightly modified: is it wrong to commit fraud if it is the only way you can give your kids access to a good education?
Williams-Bolar was arrested and found guilty of tampering with records and falsifying enrollment papers for her two daughters so they could attend a prominently “rich, white” school for two years. The school has closed enrollment policies and it costs $800 per month to enroll students who do not live in the district.
Williams-Bolar was sentenced to 10 days in jail, two years probation, and 80 hours of community service. There is also a possibility that Williams-Bolar will no longer be able to obtain the teaching degree she was close to obtaining at the University of Akron in Ohio.
Most would agree that committing fraud, as a general principle, is unacceptable and must therefore be punished. As a single act, there may not be a hugely significant cost to Williams-Bolar sneaking her daughters into the school, but the entire system would unravel if every poor mother followed in her footsteps.
But it is important to look at Williams-Bolar’s intentions and the situation she lives in.
Is it possible that her only real chance to provide her daughters with a real life opportunity to succeed required her to break the law?