Originally Sent: 12/18/2013

From the HSLDA e-lert service…
Home School Legal Defense Association

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Clear and present danger
to homeschool freedom in Ohio

Homeschooling in Ohio

Call or email today!



HSLDA staff attorney Mike Donnelly helps protect homeschool freedom in your community.
Read more >>

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends,

Several members of the Ohio Senate have filed a poorly-designed bill that would put social workers in charge of deciding whether children can be homeschooled in Ohio.

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 have 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.”

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.

Background

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. 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. (Visit HSLDA’s website for more information on responding to child abuse.) HSLDA supports the prosecution of child abusers like Bush and the improvement of systems that prevent child abuse. However, SB248 does not actually address the problems that led to Teddy’s death.

Teddy Foltz-Tedesco died 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.

SB 248 would not have saved Teddy.

Furthermore, SB 248 turns fundamental American values upside down. The United States Supreme Court has recognized that parents generally act in the best interests of their children (Parham v. JR). In Pierce v. Society of Sisters, the Court ruled that parents have a fundamental right to direct the education of their children. SB248 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. The system may need reform, but Senate Bill 248 is a step in the wrong direction.

Action Requested

Please contact the bill sponsors to ask them to withdraw Senate Bill 248. You can give them some or all of the following messages in your own words:

I am calling to urge you to withdraw Senate Bill 248. Instead of solving the problems that led to Tedd’s death, this bill violates fundamental American values—including parents’ fundamental right to direct their children’s education without unwarranted government interference, and citizens’ right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Requiring government agents to investigate parents and children before homeschooling is allowed violates both of these fundamental principles of freedom. Such a process in no way solves the problem that led to Teddy’s tragic death—rather the bill merely serves as a smokescreen more likely to obstruct a clear view of what happened to Teddy.

Teddy Foltz-Tedesco died because people responsible for protecting him—family members, neighbors, police, and child services workers—failed to do what they should have done as already provided under the law. These people already knew that Teddy was being abused for years—why wasn’t something done? This question should be answered. Instead of imposing onerous burdens on innocent parents, someone should be trying to investigate why Teddy was not removed from such an abusive situation known to so many. You should look at changing children’s services policies and procedures that require scarce human resources to follow up on virtually every anonymous tip and even on silly allegations. When this happens resources aren’t available to protect children who need and deserve them—children like Teddy.

As a practical matter, if properly followed, current laws already provide sufficient authority for the government to investigate and intervene in cases of abuse. And the current legal structure for homeschool families whereby local school districts are notified and families demonstrate annual academic progress has worked well for nearly 25 years. Parents should not have to jump over the hurdles that SB 248 would create to remove their children from bad situations in traditional schools, such as abuse, bullying, or inadequate education.

Furthermore, children’s services employees are just not equipped or qualified to decide where children go to school. Is the Ohio legislature going to authorize hiring the hundreds of new “homeschooling agents” required under this bill? Or will you just tolerate the further stretching of resources so that more children like Teddy do not receive the attention they deserve?

This bill is poorly designed, does not solve the problem, unduly burdens innocent families, and prevents parents from making decisions that are in the best interest of their children. Please withdraw Senate Bill 248 and focus your reform efforts in a way that will actually solve the problem rather than violating the rights of fit parents.

You can contact the bill’s sponsors using the following contact information:

Senator Cafaro (Primary Sponsor)
1 Capitol Square, Ground Floor
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 466-7182
Email >>

Senator Brown (Cosponsor)
1 Capitol Square, Ground Floor
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 466-5204
Email >>

Senator Turner (Cosponsor)
1 Capitol Square, 2nd Floor
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 466-4583
Email >>

Senator Schiavoni (Cosponsor)
1 Capitol Square, 2nd Floor
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 466-8285
Email >>

Although this law is misguided, it was drafted in response to a terrible tragedy, and we should keep Teddy’s family in our thoughts and prayers.

Thank you for your anticipated attention to this request.

Very truly yours,

Michael P. Donnelly, Esq.
Your HSLDA Staff Attorney

P.S. We greatly value you and your support—it is a privilege to serve you! If you or someone you know is not a member of HSLDA, will you consider taking a moment today to join or recommend us? Your support enables us to defend individual families threatened by government officials and protect homeschooling freedom for all. Join now >>

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