UPDATE: Controversial Ohio Homeschool Bill Withdrawn After Grassroots Tsunami Opposes
On Wednesday I wrote about SB 248, an offensively intrusive bill introduced in the Ohio Senate by Senator Capri Cafaro. The bill, named Teddy's Law for 14-year-old Teddy Tedesco who was brutally tortured and murdered by his mother's boyfriend, would require all homeschooling families to submit to background checks and interviews with social workers before being permitted to homeschool or enroll in an online school in the state. Parents and children would be separated for interviews and any finding by a social worker that homeschooling was not "in the best interest of the child" would be grounds for denial of the right to homeschool or enroll in an online school.
In a stunning reversal, Cafaro, the bill's sponsor, announced on Thursday that she intends to withdraw the bill. Declaring that the bill was never meant to provoke a policy debate on homeschooling, Cafaro said,
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.
Ohioans for Educational Freedom (OEF), a statewide PAC that supports homeschooling, began telling Ohio homeschoolers and other supporters of freedom in education about the bill at 10:35 p.m. on Monday night. By Thursday afternoon the bill was dead.
The evolution of SB 248 from the time the Ohio education community first learned about it until the moment Cafaro announced she was abandoning it is an excellent example of what the grassroots can accomplish when they speak with one voice and work with laser-like focus on a single issue. Mark Stevenson from OEF reported:
By Tuesday morning, we sent around to all the Facebook home school groups we were in contact with. By Tuesday afternoon, the news had traveled so fast and furious that all the typical e-mail lists were sending out our RED ALERT quicker than we could keep up with.
CHEO [Christian Home Educators of Ohio] put out a thorough Alert of their own and it seemed most of the Ohio home school population became fully aware that this was the biggest encroachment of home schooling rights in Ohio.
By Tuesday afternoon Mike Donnelly from HSLDA [Homeschool Legal Defense Association] put out a statement saying "This is the biggest over reach I've seen in a very long time if ever in the area of imposing regulation on home schoolers." Later that evening, HSLDA sent out their evening e-mail that announced a headline of "Worst-Ever Homeschool Law Proposed". We were receiving intel reports that Cafaro's office had been overwhelmed and inundated with phone calls all day on Tuesday and it was continuing through Wednesday.
Stevenson reported that his website received more than 300,000 hits in two days and the group's Facebook group gained several hundred new members. The story was shared on blogs, newspapers, Twitter, and talk radio -- I received several requests to discuss the issue on radio as a result of my article here. Opponents set up several Facebook pages to share information and a petition at Change.org received almost 1400 signatures in a day.
By Tuesday, Cafaro was already backing away from the bill in Facebook posts at the Teddy's Law page, saying
I have no desire to have any power over anyone. And, there may need to be some significant changes to the bill to avoid possible constitutional challenges.
I spoke with several legislators who told me the bill had no traction whatsoever -- D.O.A. It failed to enlist even one Republican co-sponsor and it became clear within a few hours that public sentiment was strongly opposed to the proposed law.
The backlash against Cafaro's bill -- by the public and by her fellow legislators -- must have been overwhelming. In addition to saying she would pull the bill, Cafaro vowed to leave homeschoolers alone. Forever.
I will not include any content related to education in the home in a new bill, or in any other bill.
She added that she will work to craft a new bill to "honor Teddy’s legacy and to protect vulnerable children like him in the future."
Hopefully Cafaro will follow through on her vow to reform the social service agencies that failed to act on multiple reports of Teddy's abuse over several years, including while he was enrolled in public school. Of course, that will mean going up against those in union-protected jobs, but she needn't worry, because, as she breezily declared in another Facebook post this week, "I am term-limited and am unlikely to seek another elected office in the near future."
May it be so.
And may we see a whole lot more of this overwhelming grassroots cooperation and coordination in defense of our liberty!