Latino Religion v. Latino Education

By Hector Luis Alamo, Jr., Being Latino

A bit of nonsense is being stirred up byLatino family in Texas:

“A federal judge has ruled that a Texas school has the right to force a student to wear an ID badge, something she was refusing saying the embedded tracking device is sacrilegious to her Christian faith. 

The Tuesday ruling gave the school the right to expel or transfer 15-year-old Andrea Hernandez from the district. It said that if the girl is to stay at the school, she would be required to wear the badge. Otherwise, she would have to transfer to a new school. …

Last fall, the Northside Independent School District began experimenting with ‘locator’ chips in student ID badges on two campuses, allowing administrators to track the whereabouts of 4,200 students with GPS-like precision.

Administrators say the chips make students safer and will help boost attendance records that are used to calculate badly needed state funding.

Hernandez’s suit against Northside –the fourth-largest school district in Texas– argues that the ID rule violates her religious beliefs. Her family says the badge is satanic and a ‘mark of the beast’ that goes against their religion.”

My main gripe with the case has nothing to do with the secular arguments against surveillance and the invasion of privacy. The way I see it, a 15-year-old girl is not a consenting adult and therefore is not vested with the same level of rights that an adult is, especially rights concerning privacy. A parent may enter their child’s room whenever they want and peruse their personal items, just as a teacher or school administration can demand that a student empty their pockets, open their locker, or fork over their cell phone.

Minors enjoy a certain level of respect under the law — the rights which demand they be treated as human beings — but not much, or at least not as much as adults do.

In any case, the family isn’t arguing on the grounds of privacy. They’re saying their religion forbids little Andrea from using the tracking ID.

So, coming to what really sticks in my craw, I can’t believe that, in the year 2013, I have to read about a case in which an American family sues an American school over an ID, claiming it violates the family’s religious beliefs — their apparently literal belief in the Book of Revelation, no less. And if I weren’t embarrassed enough as an American, that the family is Latino only adds salt to the wound.

The Book of Revelation — undoubtedly the most deranged pages in already one of the most twisted, cockeyed and savage texts ever produced by our species, written near the close of the first century CE by either a brilliant allegorist or a bona fide schizophrenic living in a cave.

And now, because a couple of Latinos, touched by an angel in the head, think church is more important than school, they’re suing the educators based on something their jabbering, know-nothing pastor told them one Sunday morning. (You have never, in your life, heard of a teacher suing a preacher or a school administrator suing a religious student. Never ever.)

I understand full well the integral role superstitions play in Latino culture. My own sweet and otherwise sharp ‘ita regularly recounts to me how she once saw “una bruja” transform into an owl when she was a little girl in Honduras. I especially love the story of how her father shot and killed un chancho that was attacking him in the woods, and when he returned with his brothers to recover the body, they found a man shot dead.

Latinos seem to have a flair for the fantastical.

To Andrea, who I’m sure doesn’t want to be the center of a kerfuffle between her deranged parents and her high school, just do what all teenagers do whenever parents open their mouths. Say this: “Mom, dad, you’re embarrassing me.”

And maybe, just maybe, you should find something more useful to do with your Sunday mornings.

This article was first published in Being Latino.

Hector Luis Alamo, Jr., is the associate editor at Being Latino and a native son of Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. He received a B.A. in history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where his concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States. While at UIC, he worked first as a staff writer for the Chicago Flame and later became the newspaper’s Opinions editor. He contributes to various Chicago-area publications, most notably, the RedEye and Gozamos. He’s also a cultural critic for ‘LLERO magazine. He has maintained a personal blog since 2007,, where he discusses topics ranging from political history and philosophy to culture and music.

[Photo by knittymarie]

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