By Jordan Cohen
An outraged response from home-school advocates appears to have led State Sen. Capri Cafaro of Liberty, D-32nd, to withdraw her bill that would have required background and database checks for parents wishing to home school their children.
Cafaro announced the decision in a news release only days after having a news conference in support of her legislation.
A spokeswoman in her Columbus office said Cafaro was not available for interviews Friday.
Cafaro indicated that opposition from home-school advocates led to her decision. “Unfortunately, the true intent of the bill to curtail child abuse has been eclipsed by the issue of homeschooling,” her release stated.
Cafaro drafted the bill called “Teddy’s Law” after meeting with the father and grandparents of 14-year-old Teddy Foltz of Struthers who was beaten to death last January by Zaryl Bush, the boyfriend of the victim’s mother, Shain Widdersheim.
Investigators said the mother removed the child from public school to home school him to cover up the abuse of her son. Bush and Widdersheim subsequently pleaded guilty and were sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
During the news conference Monday, Cafaro said that home-school parents who had “nothing to hide” should not be concerned about her legislation, but the Home School Legal Defense Association, a nationwide organization, rejected her statement and vehemently opposed the legislation.
“It’s an unreasonable infringement on the fundamental rights of parents to decide how their children are educated,” said Michael Donnelly, an attorney affiliated with HSLDA at its Virginia headquarters. “We have a constitutional presumption that parents will do what is best for their children, [and this] is a terrible waste of time and effort.”
Donnelly said current Ohio laws “strike an appropriate balance between state interests and parental rights.”
Cafaro released a letter she has sent asking a senate committee to conduct field hearings throughout the state to “address the impact of current law, government agencies and nonprofit organizations on child welfare in Ohio.” Donnelly, who said he welcomed Cafaro’s decision to withdraw the bill, endorsed her request.
“It doesn’t appear enough was done for Teddy Foltz, and from what I’ve read, I saw a failure on the part of officials,” the attorney said.
Cafaro promised in the news release to exclude any content related to home school education in a future bill.
“It is our goal to craft a new bill to honor Teddy’s legacy and to protect vulnerable children like him in the future,” she said.