Sunday, November 15, 2009

Texas Teacher: State-Required Fingerprinting Is a Devilish Affair

On November 3rd Pam McLaurin, an otherwise unassuming kindergarten teacher in Big Sandy ISD filed suit in federal court against Texas TEA Commissioner Robert Scott and Associate Commissioner Jerel Booker.

At issue, according to this posting at the American Constitution Society, is Ms. McLaurin’s rights as a person of faith, a person who, she claims will have her constitutional right to free exercise of her religious beliefs violated because of a new state law that requires all teachers who teach in Texas schools be fingerprinted.

This is the result of a bill passed during the 80th legislative session in 2007 known then as SB 9 but is now embodied within the Texas Education code under Section 22.0831 (scroll to page 18).

And while it doesn’t appear that this applies to all teachers in Texas, and not just to new teachers seeking a Texas teaching certificate, this is exactly what it does.

It applies to all teachers.

But Pam McLaurin, in her federal lawsuit, argues that this requirement violates her freedom of religion because “fingerprinting represents a sign of the beast, a reference to the Bible's book of Revelation.”

That is, that part of Revelation that refers to those who are marked by Satan as one of his own in the end of days.

Going further . . .

“Revelation states that people who worship ‘the beast and his image and receives his mark on his forehead or on his right hand,’ shall draw God's wrath. McLaurin's attorney says the law, which could prompt the teacher's dismissal, violates her First Amendment free exercise of religion right. The attorney, Scott Skelton, told Wired that McLaurin firmly believes that computerized fingerprinting is the mark of the beast referenced in Revelation. ‘This law prohibits the free exercise of her religion,’ he told Wired.”
Now I have to say that this fingerprinting mandate, which I have known was coming down the pike for some time now is not special to Texas. California fingerprints all of its teaching certificate applicants as well. Texas has gone one better, though, in requiring that its entire teacher workforce, numbering some 600,000 individuals, be fingerprinted as well.

And at $40 a pop in fingerprinting fees, that’s a cool chunk of change ($24 million) going out of the pockets of Texas teachers and into the state coffers. The alternative, as stated in the ACS article, is dismissal.

Talk about pay to play.

Anyway, while I have some trouble with Ms. McLaurin’s main issue with the law, that it violates her religious freedom, and while I doubt it will get very far even in East Texas, deep in the heart of the Bible Belt, I wish Ms. McLaurin and her lawyer well.

Not because I want a bunch of criminals teaching our children, I don’t. But because the law speaks to the level of respect, or shall I say disrespect that the state and society in general has for the teaching profession.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"The law speaks to the level of respect, or shall I say disrespect that the state and society in general has for the teaching profession."----Hal

I agree to the above quote; it nails exactly what is being done to Texas' Teachers. We are the only group of professionals who have to keep on proving that we are, indeed, qualified for the profession deserving to remain in our jobs long after graduation from college and long after having been in the job for years, even decades.

Remember about twenty years ago, teachers had to take a test to remain certified to teach in the state of Texas after already having been issued life-time certifications prior to the enactment of the law to back-track to test all Texas Teachers.

I know of no such laws enacted to do Lawyers, Doctors, or Engineers, according. So, it comes down to as Hal has summed it up in a nutshell to be, "disrespect that the state and society in general has for the teaching profession."