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Senate Bill (SB) 248 was introduced on December 3, 2013, and would require children’s services to review all homeschool notices to determine whether homeschooling is “in the best interest of the child.” Under this proposed legislation, children’s services would be required to meet with parents who choose to homeschool and conduct separate in-person interviews with each of their children. Children’s services would then make a recommendation for or against the excuse from compulsory school attendance.
Children’s services would automatically be required to recommend against homeschooling if they determine it is not in the child’s “best interest” or if the family has any record of a child welfare investigation, regardless of the result of that investigation. If there is a recommendation against homeschooling, the superintendent would be ordered to delay excusing the children for homeschooling until the family participates in a CPS parenting “intervention.”
The effect of the bill would require children’s services to divert time and resources away from true child abuse investigations in order to review homeschool plans which they are neither prepared nor qualified to evaluate.
This bill is breathtaking in its attempt to impose unreasonable government intrusion on Ohio families. In responding to this ill-advised legislation, however, it is important to keep in mind the background that has led to this bill.
|12/3/2013||(Senate)||Introduced in Senate|
|12/19/2013||(Senate)||Suspended by sponsor|
The bill is being called “Teddy’s Law.” It was drafted 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 and 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 being abused for years. 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.
HSLDA condemns child abuse and is saddened by Teddy’s death. (For more information on responding to child abuse, click here.) 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.
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 this child from known abuse?
Teddy’s abuse was well known. 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. This bill is misguided and a step in the wrong direction.
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