Last night, we spoke on CNN's AC 360 about the case of Kelley Williams-Bolar, the single mother who was sent to jail for sending her kids to the "wrong" school district. Since we first hit the issue on AOL Black Voices, it has set off a national firestorm of interest, with officials at the highest levels now becoming concerned with the case. Many are starting to see the case of Kelley Williams-Bolar as a microcosm of all that is wrong with the educational system in America, and rather than this case being reflective of one woman's struggle (which is certainly a concern), the broader impact of the case is what will ultimately affect millions of Americans.
After trudging through snowy Syracuse, New York to speak with Soledad O'Brien last night, I took some time to have a conversation with a man that I respect, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. Congressman Jackson reiterated his long-standing commitment to improving educational access in our country. We also seemed to be in agreement that our nation has a great deal of work to do when it comes to ensuring that our children have access to an equal and high quality education.
After hearing Congressman Jackson's position on the issue, we both realized that Kelley Williams-Bolar is effectively a modern day version of Rosa Parks. The same way that Rosa violated the law in order to get access to the front of the bus, Kelley Williams-Bolar also violated the law in order to get access to the same educational system that is enjoyed by people in the suburbs. Congressman Jackson brought up the notion of moving this issue to the federal government and seeking to amend the United States Constitution. I'll admit that this never crossed my mind, but I certainly like the idea a lot.
Jackson made a clear point that rather than having thousands of municipal and city-based solutions to the educational problem, there must be one meaningful solution provided at the federal level. The case of Kelley Williams-Bolar can be used to educate others about the depth of this problem and our elected officials must step forward in order to make things right. While some schools serve as pathways to a liberated life, far too many schools are statically-proven pipelines to feed the prison industrial complex.
I am hopeful that Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama will get directly involved in the issue. This is not a matter of saying that what Kelley did was legal. We must remember that we live in a nation where it was once illegal for slaves to learn how to read. Violating an unjust law is sometimes quite an ethical sacrifice, for it often opens the door to making the uncomfortable changes necessary for our society to function at a higher level. So, just like Rosa Parks broke the law for good reason during the Civil Rights Movement, Kelley Williams-Bolar is inspiring all of us to demand what is right for our children. It's time to modify the United States Constitution so that all of our kids are valued equally.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.