This article was submitted by guest contributor Joshua Johnson
Why I got involved in the debate against “Teddy’s Law”
I am raising my family in Cincinnati, Ohio. I vote like 60% of Americans. I’m an entrepreneur. I’m a father of three girls, and my wife and I homeschool.
We can get into our reasons we decided to home school later, but I assure you our goal was not a conspiracy to shelter our children from our abusive discipline tactics.
Recently my wife, in passing, mentioned a bill that was proposed by an Ohio State Senator that would place a lot of additional requirements on homeschool families. Something she said about this particular bill caused greater alarm than usual and sent me on a mission to dig further.
It wasn’t the stated intent of the bill that concerned me, but the correlation derived from the tragic death of Teddy.
A Tragic Story of Evil
Theodore “Teddy” A. Foltz-Tedesco was brutally abused by his mother’s boyfriend for years. Authorities at Teddy’s school tried to get involved and multiple reports were filed with Children’s Services, but still nothing was done. When suspicions were rising at school, Teddy’s mother removed Teddy and his siblings from school and began “homeschooling”. This, of course, was the only way she could shield the abuse from the public.
In January, 2013 Teddy was murdered. His mother neglected to protect her child from an extremely abusive man, even enabled the abuse that resulted in her son’s death. Today Teddy’s mom and her boyfriend are serving prison sentences, rightfully spending the rest of their lives on earth paying the price for stealing a beautiful life from another human being.
Using liberty to steal liberty from others
Things like this should never happen! Children should feel safe, protected, and loved in their homes, more than anywhere else. Teddy’s mom and boyfriend stretched far beyond their rights as caretakers of Teddy and STOLE the same liberty granted to him under the law.
Unfortunately, Teddy’s mom used her freedom granted to parents by the Supreme Court of the United States in Pierce v Society of Sisters to hide her sins from neighbors and other authorities. This was the primary inspiration for Ohio’s State Senator Capri Cafaro to author SB 248.
Here’s what the bill proposed:
- Parents or guardians must ask permission from the state in order to home educate
- Background checks required on parents
- Private interviews required between children and child service representatives
- The state determines guidelines for approving requests for home school families
As an Ohio resident and U.S. citizen, I believe the precedent SB 248 would set for allowing this kind of government intrusion into the intimacy and privacy of our homes would have severe longterm repercussions beyond our comprehension.
As we see on both sides of the aisle in politics, Americans have a hard time keeping a level head in times of tragedy. We forget our values. We forget the Constitution, and we attempt to solve everything with new legislation.
Just a few examples:
Patriot Act after 9/11
The suspension of Habeas Corpus by President Lincoln during the Civil War
Japanese American internment during World War II
Whenever we experience horrific events it seems we attempt to control and contain the problem of human evil through laws that defy the very dignity we so loved before the tragedy. We easily hand over our liberty to the state in exchange for more security…so we think. In return we actually lose the liberty that affords the same potentially evil society the ability to also be good.
“They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
Benjamin Franklin before the Pennsylvania Assembly
Some said SB 248 was the…
“Worst homeschool bill in U.S. history.”
As I said before, the Supreme Court ruled on parental rights in 1925. This was the primary foundation and precedent for other famous laws such as Roe v Wade. In this case, we’re seeking to protect the freedoms of families to lead and love their children as they see fit.
Pierce v Society of Sisters opinion:
Associate Justice James Clark McReynolds wrote the opinion of the Court. He stated that children were not “the mere creature[s] of the state” (268 U.S. 510, 535), and that, by its very nature, the traditional American understanding of the term liberty prevented the state from forcing students to accept instruction only from publicschools. He stated that this responsibility belonged to the child’s parents or guardians, and that the ability to make such a choice was a “liberty” protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.
Many believe it is worth defending the liberties of idiots even if we don’t like what they do with those same liberties. If they use their freedom to steal freedom from someone else, they will pay a price to society for that sin. In every society there are law breakers. There are those that try to extend their liberty beyond what is endowed by their creator–forgetting the rights and values of their neighbors.
Sen. Capri Cafaro later announced, “SB 248 was never meant to be a policy debate about educating children in the home,” Cafaro explained, “It was meant to address weaknesses in the law pertaining to child protection. Unfortunately, the true intent of the bill to curtail child abuse has been eclipsed by the issue of home schooling.”
“After consultation with Teddy’s family, we have collectively decided the best course of action is for me to withdraw SB 248, and instead pursue a more comprehensive approach to address the current challenges in the state’s social service and criminal justice system,” Cafaro’s statement also said, according to EAGnews.
Thankfully this bill did not have a chance to set an unimaginable standard that would be difficult to undo. I am also grateful Teddy’s legacy can be cemented in finding solutions to the real problems surrounding his death without eliminating the freedoms of millions of good people who don’t take their liberty for granted.
It’s evident evil will always exist, and humans cannot be tamed to perfection by natural or legislative law. Therefore, let’s consider the possibility that MORE liberty, not less will ensure a good, brighter, and more hopeful future ahead. Stronger, healthier families could have led to different decisions by Shain (Tedd’y mother) and Zaryl (her boyfriend) that could have saved Teddy’s life.