School boards have an opportunity to help “flip the narrative” about Hispanic Americans and create a healthier sense of identity for the 12.4 million Hispanic students attending public K-12 schools.
That was the message of journalist Maria Hinojosa at a Sunday breakfast meeting of the National Hispanic Caucus of School Board Members at NSBA’s Annual Conference in New Orleans.
“Latino teens have the highest attempted suicide rate in the country,” said Hinojosa, host of National Public Radio’s Latino USA show and winner of four Emmy awards. “Our Latino teenagers are depressed.”
She said she thinks it has a lot to do with a weak sense of identity among Hispanics. She cited comments she’s heard from Latino students at DePaul University, where she teaches. They have asked her, “Can I call myself American?”
Perhaps the cruelest identity issues involve students from “illegal” immigrant families. “There are no illegal people,” Hinojosa said, attributing the quotation to Elie Wiesel.
Such issues can be addressed by school board members because they have a unique role in society as advocates for all children, regardless of ethnicity or background.
She cited a school district that announced that it will address the fact that 65 percent of its Hispanic students drop out. She wondered aloud why the rate had to get that horrific before it got some attention, joking that 50 percent must have been considered okay.
After hearing reports by caucus leaders of projects including a scholarship program for Hispanic students who are admitted to colleges, Hinojosa praised such efforts.
She also urged board members to active as “democracy junkies.” For instance, she said it’s a national disgrace that those detained in immigration facilities have no legal right to challenge the conditions of their detention.
Hinojosa announced that she has received a “green light” from the Public Broadcasting System to host and executive produce a TV show called “America by the Numbers with Maria Hinojosa” that will tell stories of Latino issues that are “based on data.”
She urged school board members to send her story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.