Teenager’s Death Creates Homeschooling Controversy
Meet Teddy Foltz-Tedesco
Biological father never established parenting time rights for his son, Teddy, but paid child support regularly. He saw his son when the mother let him but the last time she let him was when Teddy was ten. This year, when Teddy was fourteen, the mother’s boyfriend raped and beat Teddy to death. The mother refused to let father see their son in the hospital prior to his death.
Teddy had a tumultuous family history with teachers suspecting child abuse. Mother removed him from school and began homeschooling him months prior to his death. Mother’s boyfriend abused Teddy and his younger brothers in view of their neighbors. Mother received a prison sentence of fifteen years in her role in Teddy’s death, while her boyfriend received a life-sentence.
Teddy liked to play football and he and his father met at the same place in a park when they saw each other. The two younger boys are now in protective custody.
Gist of Teddy’s Law
Biological father now supports “Teddy’s law,” saying “[w}e want to see it illegal to pull your child out of public school and put them in home school when there is an open children services case.” Ohio Senator Capri Cafaro has taken up the cause, seeking to require homeschooling parents to first submit to interviews with local child protection workers and background checks.
Pursuant to the proposed new law, homeschooling parents and their children would be interviewed separately to ensure the legitimacy of the homeschooling request. The child protection workers would recommend homeschooling depending upon whether it is in the child’s best interest, but would recommend against it if there had been any child welfare reports, regardless of the final outcome of those reports. Homeschooling advocates have characterized the proposed new law as a clear and present danger against the homeschooling rights of parents.
Isolation at the Heart of the Issue
Isolation is a frequent criticism of homeschooling. The public perceives that homeschooling results in children who are not socialized to be with other children and that they simply miss out on too much by not going to school.
Teddy’s Law assumes that the isolation of homeschool students caused his death. Teachers are required to report suspected child abuse, and teachers naturally spend many hours a week with their students. Therefore, the reasoning goes, if Teddy had been in school, he wouldn’t have died at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend.
Isolation beyond just homeschooling
Teddy’s mother did not let him or his younger brother socialize with other family members. Neighbors noticed problems and there were on-going reports of family abuse. The family already led secluded lives before the mother withdrew Teddy from school. Teddy had no contact with his biological father. Homeschooling cut off Teddy’s last connection beyond his mother and his abuser.
Easier Solutions for Ohio Homeschooling
It is hard to imagine a worse home life than Teddy’s. The decision to homeschool Teddy followed the utter failure of the community, including the school, to save him from his plight. Short of empowering caseworkers to make private educational decisions for all potential homeschooling parents, we should consider:
1. Funding legal services for parents who cannot pay to set up parenting time orders. We already provide funding to set up child support. Is parenting time any less vital than child support?
2. Requiring the consent of both parents to homeschool or change schools or withdraw a child from school. The mother is often called the child’s last defense against an abuser. Is a father any less inclined to protect his child?
3. Adding an extra-curricular activity or community service project to the required home schooling curriculum. Ohio homeschool law already permits homeschool students to take part in sports and such in the local school district on the same terms as traditional students.
Homeschooling is a right. Homeschooling does not encourage monsters to abuse children.