After being targeted with unusually harsh prosecution, thrown in jail for nine days and denied a request for pardon when she falsified her home address to get her daughters into a better public school, Kelley Williams-Bolar has finally caught a bit of a break. On Wednesday,Ohio Gov. John Kasich reduced the Akron mother’s remaining two charges, of records tampering, from two felonies to misdemeanors, the AP reported.
Williams-Bolar was also hit with theft charges–school officials said she stole more than $30,000 worth of public education for her daughters when she used her father’s home address to get her daughters into better schools in a neighboring school district. While the theft charges were eventually dropped, prosecutors pursued the charges of record tampering, which Williams-Bolar said threatened her career as an educator.
“When I first heard about this situation, it seemed to me that the penalty was excessive for the offense,” Kasich said in a statement, the AP reported. “In addition, the penalty could exclude her from certain economic opportunities for the rest of her life.”
But Kasich’s clemency only went so far. Wlliams-Bolar must still carry out the rest of her sentence, which includes probation and 80 hours of community service. She must also pay for the cost of her own prosecution, the AP reported.
“No one should interpret this as a pass – it’s a second chance,” Kasich said in his statement.
Kasich’s decision may have been influenced by the national outrage Williams-Bolar’s case sparked, and the more than 100,000 signatures collected by online organizing arms like Change.org and ColorofChange.org in support of Williams-Bolar.
Williams-Bolar’s attorney praised the governor’s decision. Williams-Bolar’s case has highlighted fundamental educational inequalities in the country, as well as the lengths to which local prosecutors will go to punish poor, black mothers. Kasich, in turn, has used Williams-Bolar’s case to highlight the need for more school choice options, like school vouchers, that allow students to leave the public school system. One of Williams-Bolar’s daughters is now enrolled in a private middle school through a school voucher.