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Worst-Ever Homeschool Law Proposed in Ohio
Staff Attorney Mike Donnelly answers questions and assists members regarding legal issues in Ohio. He and his wife homeschool. Read more >>
With the introduction of Senate Bill 248 on December 3, 2013, by Senator Capri Cafaro, Ohio has suddenly become a frontline in the battle over homeschooling freedom.
SB 248 is breathtakingly onerous in its scope. It requires all parents who homeschool to undergo a social services investigation which would ultimately determine if homeschooling would be permitted. Social workers would have to interview parents and children separately, conduct background checks and determine whether homeschooling is recommended or not. If it is not recommended, parents would have to submit to an “intervention” before further consideration of their request to homeschool.
SB 248 was offered by sponsors as a way to respond to the death of 14-year-old Teddy Foltz-Tedesco in January 2013. News reports indicate that Teddy had been abused for years by his mother’s boyfriend, Zaryl Bush. After teachers reported abuse to authorities, Teddy’s mother withdrew him from public school, allegedly to homeschool him. Reports tell a sad story of a broken home where neighbors, friends, family, police, teachers and others knew Teddy was suffering ongoing abuse. Finally, Bush beat Teddy so severely that he later died of his injuries. Both Bush and Teddy’s mother are now in prison. A news report can be found online.
Unfair to Homeschoolers
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.
In recent years HSLDA has observed numerous attempts to severely restrict homeschooling in state legislatures around the country. In response to a growing number of academic critics, Michael Farris wrote “Tolerance and Liberty: Answering the Academic Left’s Challenge to Homeschooling Freedom.” Published in the Peabody Journal of Education and available online, Farris articulates why laws like SB 248 are unnecessary and un-American. His response to these critics who have proposed radical constraints on homeschooling freedom puts this latest attempt in the proper context.
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 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.
SB 248 turns fundamental American values upside down. Parents have been deemed by the United States Supreme Court in Parham v. JR to act in their children’s best interests. In Pierce v. Society of Sisters, the Court ruled that parents have a fundamental right to direct the education of their children. This law replaces parents with unqualified social workers to make educational decisions for children.
What happened to Teddy Foltz-Tedesco is a tragedy that could have been prevented. If those responsible for investigating child abuse had done their job, Teddy might have been saved. The system needs reform, but Senate Bill 248 will increase the load on social workers by requiring them to investigate all families who want to homeschool rather than focusing resources on parents actually suspected of child abuse.
Rather than target tens of thousands of decent Ohioans who homeschool, policymakers like Cafaro should try to discover what prevented police and social workers who knew what was going on from taking action and faithfully enforcing Ohio’s already adequate child protection laws. This bill is misguided and a step in the wrong direction.
HSLDA has requested its Ohio members contact the bill’s sponsors to ask them to withdraw Senate Bill 248. However we encourage all our members to consider intervening. This misguided attack on homeschooling in Ohio may only be a precursor to more general attempts by some to impose similar restrictions on parents. Such attempts have been made in the past in numerous states but thanks to the work of HSLDA and state organizations, homeschooling has so far been protected.
For more information visit HSLDA’s legislative summary of Ohio SB 248.
Protect Your Family
If you have questions or difficulties in a school accepting your family’s homeschool diploma, don’t hesitate to contact HSLDA. We are happy to assist you! If you aren’t a member of HSLDA—what are you waiting for? By standing together we can fight discrimination against homeschoolers and protect our fundamental freedoms. Join today!