An Ohio State Senator is hoping to change State law so that parents who homeschool would first have to pass a social services investigation before receiving either a denial or a State-sanctioned “recommendation.”
Informally known as “Teddy’s Law,” the proposal was devised by Democratic Senator Capri Cafaro in reaction to a violent January incident that led to the death of a 14-year-old boy whose mother had taken him out of the public schools.
Theodore Foltz-Tedesco died of injuries he sustained in a beating at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend, Zaryl Bush, inside his home. His mother, Shain Widdersheim, had taken him out of public school after teachers began to suspect an ongoing pattern of abuse (they were very right) and reported their suspicions to authorities.
Bush has since been sentenced to life in prison for killing Teddy, and Widdersheim received 15 years for child endangerment and obstruction.
Senator Cafaro reasons the tragedy wouldn’t have happened if there had been a government mechanism to vet Widdersheim before she was allowed to take her son out of school.
But Teddy’s Law is receiving stiff opposition from homeschoolers and the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), who argue that a pattern of child abuse inside a home doesn’t occur just during school hours, and that far deeper problems lie at the root of domestic abuse cases like the one that led to Teddy’s death.
HSLDA staff attorney Mike Donnelly explained last week why he believes Teddy’s Law is misguided and, ultimately, an onerous burden on homeschooling parents.
HSLDA condemns child abuse and is saddened by Teddy’s death. HSLDA supports the prosecution of child abusers like Bush and the improvement of systems that prevent child abuse. However, this proposed law does not actually address the problems that led to Teddy’s death and instead unfairly targets homeschooling.
… Teddy Foltz-Tedesco was killed because those responsible for protecting him did not step in as the law or common sense would have dictated. Why? Although news reports indicate that abuse had been reported for years prior to Teddy’s death, it does not appear that any serious intervention was made by government authorities charged with investigating such allegations. Why was not enough done to protect Teddy from known abuse?
Even if, as SB 248 [Teddy’s Law] would require, his mother had sought social service’s approval to homeschool and was denied, he still would have been at home subject to abuse after school. Regardless of where he went to school, Teddy was left by authorities in a home where they knew abuse was occurring.
Clearly, SB 248 would not have saved Teddy.
But Cafaro argues that government must establish a safety net that clears parents as fitting chaperones before releasing children back into their own homes.
“The objective there is to make sure the child services agency has all the information on that family that is looking to home school that child, and then they refer that, ‘Yay’ or ‘Nay — should this child be educated at home?’ — And they pass that along to the superintendent of schools and the process goes from there,” Cafaro told WKBN last week. “[We must] [m]ake sure there is a checks and balances so children like Teddy Foltz-Tedesco don’t fall through the cracks, which happened so tragically earlier this year.”