WARREN - When Mark Moran began discussing the option of homeschooling his son, several factors were weighed.
"Situations that had happened and because of our own personal beliefs, we thought this was the time to do it," Moran said Friday evening.
Moran, a divorced dad who enlists the help of his mother, Katherine, said, "Homeschooling is a decision by the parent. It is God-given and constitutional."
Tribune Chronicle / Ashley Newman
Mark Moran of Warren and his mother, Katherine, review a textbook they use in homeschooling his 12-year-old son.
Now, several years later, with his 12-year-old son halfway through his seventh-grade year, the Warren resident believes he made the right choice.
"Look, we may decide that he goes into public school for high school," Moran said. "That's something that is on the table, but I'm glad we've put this foundation in him at home."
However, Moran and many other homeschoolers believe their rights are being threatened.
A recent controversy regarding Senate Bill 248, commonly known as "Teddy's Law," sparked an intense debate statewide among those who have chosen the nonconventional path to education.
"It's an illogical correlation between abuse and homeschooling because of an isolated and horrific event," Moran said.
The bill, which was aimed at spotting abusive homes, would have required parents wanting to homeschool or have their children involved with online schooling programs to first seek approval from local children services agencies, undergo background checks, allow caseworkers to interview them in their homes, and all the children to be interviewed separately in an effort to detect any possibility of abuse.
The proposed legislation was the result of the Jan. 26 death of 14-year-old Theodore "Teddy" Foltz Tedesco at the hands of Zaryl G. Bush, 533 Creed St., Struthers, who was dating Tedesco's mother, Shain Widdersheim, 28 Creed St. Bush was accused of running a boot camp-like environment, abusing the boy physically and emotionally, and beating him to death.
Locally, the squabble reached a fever pitch when Sen. Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard, began pushing for the passage of the bill earlier this month. She held a news conference on Monday.
By Thursday, Cafaro said she was withdrawing the proposal to pursue a more comprehensive course of action.
"Unfortunately, the true intent of the bill to curtail child abuse has been eclipsed by the issue of homeschooling," Cafaro said. "SB 248 was never meant to be a policy debate about educating children in the home. It was meant to address weaknesses in the law pertaining to child protection.''
In a statement, she 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.
''It is our hope that this new focus will bring the discussion back to where it was always intended to be: protecting children.''
Cafaro said she will make a formal motion to withdraw the bill when state senators return to session after Jan. 1.
Teddy's father, Shawn Tedesco of Sharon, Pa., said that Widdersheim and Bush isolated the teenager by taking him out of the school system, where teachers, social workers and others potentially may have seen signs of abuse happening.
Paul Foltz, Teddy's grandfather, said their goal was to stop any other kids from falling through the cracks and experiencing long-term abuse.
Katherine Moran - who homeschooled all five of her children - said the intentions were good, but the bill went too far in its rules and regulations.
"We aren't extremists," Moran said. "There are assessments that we have to do at the end of every year, and I agree with them. The state does have an obligation, to some extent, to work with the parents.
"But when authority oversteps its boundaries and tells us when we can or can't do this, that's not America.
"The fact that she (Cafaro) was willing to change her opinion says a lot about her. That's a good thing.''
Tracy Dickenson, treasurer of Trumbull Education Association of Christian Homeschoolers, agreed that the bill went too far.
"It's a tragic thing that happened to that boy," Dickenson said last week. "Unfortunately, the solution is not what they're attempting. This bill would take away rights and it went so far overboard that it's not even funny.
"You know it's like this, federal and state government have their place," Dickenson said. "But we are responsible for our own children and it's important that the community also takes an interest.
"We do not need big brother watching everything we do."
With lawmakers likely to revisit the topic in the future, many homeschoolers see striking a balance between protection of the children and maintaining individual freedoms as a formidable challenge.
Dickenson explained she is not certain how changes to the bill could make it more acceptable.
"It's just such a difficult issue and I think it's a matter of prayers," Dickenson said. "It's something beyond us. It's going to take many minds coming together to communicate what is best. Together they can come up with the best ways to deal with these issues."
Meanwhile, Katherine Moran sees the debate as one whose answer is ultimately rooted in the U.S. Constitution.
"With that law, it would infringe upon the rights of parents as the primary educators of their children," Moran said, citing her Catholic faith as the source of her beliefs on education.
"The government already has guidelines in," she said. "Don't go any further than that. You can't take away liberty to go after isolated incidents, as horrible as it was."