Chaplains could be in Texas public schools this fall under new bill

 Lawmakers in Texas have passed a bill that could allow chaplains to work in public schools as soon as the 2023-24 academic year. 

Texas House members passed Senate Bill 763 on Monday which will permit school districts to hire chaplains. Unlike school counselors in the state who must have master’s degrees and two years of classroom teaching experience, the chaplains are not required to be certified by the State Board for Educator Certification.

Chaplains, however, must pass a background check, be endorsed by a religious organization and must have some training to meet the Department of Defense chaplain standards.

A chaplain is a certified clergy member who offers spiritual support typically in non-religious settings outside of a church. A school chaplain may be available to counsel and guide students and staff. A chaplain may even lead a prayer, a service, or even teach classes depending on the school.

The chaplain passage in Texas comes amid an ongoing debate nationwide on the use of religion in public schools. A 2019 Pew Research Center survey said some forms of religious expression are relatively common in public schools.

Student scores sufferingUS history, civics scores drop for nation's 8th graders. What experts say is to blame.

'A moment of truth in U.S. education'McCarthy budget would slash 60,000 teachers, 'undermine education,' Biden administration says

Concerns about the Texas chaplain school bill raised along political party lines

Many Texas Republican legislators strongly favored the chaplain in schools bill as objecting Democratic lawmakers preferred the measure go to GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, according to the Religion News Service. The vote fell along party lines, with 89 members voting in favor and 58 voting in opposition.

House members passed an amended version of the bill on Tuesday that prohibits registered sex offenders from serving as chaplains, to institute background checks and requires those serving in the role to be endorsed by an organization recognized by the United States Department of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Prisons or the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Texas State Rep. Cole Hefner, a Republican who sponsored the bill, said it would be up to each individual school district to decide whether to hire chaplains. Hefner said local school boards could require a master’s degree and post-degree training, Spectrum News reported.

"I want to make sure that we’re making it clear - that everybody knows - that schools may choose to do this or not, and that they can put whatever rules and regulations in place that they see fit," said Hefner, responding to a question from his Democratic counterpart, Rep. James Talarico, a former school teacher.

"I think, just to be blunt with you, we can trust the school boards to do that," Hefner added.

Talarico said he has his doubts about the new bill.

"I worry that this bill will lead to Christian nationalists infiltrating our public schools and indoctrinating our students," Talarico told Religion News Service on Tuesday. 

Is college worth it?College Scorecard changes could give prospective students the encouragement they need.

Is teaching math in America adding up?Most Americans are unhappy with the math taught in classrooms, new survey shows

Having a chaplain in Texas public schools may be an ongoing debate

The two lawmakers had a very testy exchange this week, NewsNation reported. Some state representatives have concerns about endorsing one religion and several wanted the bill to require parental consent and for students to have the option to request a chaplain of a specific faith.

"I think we need to give our school districts every tool that we can in the toolbox with all that we’ve been experiencing with mental health issues and catastrophes and crises," Hefner said.

"You are a champion for parental rights so I’m just curious why parental consent before a student can meet with a chaplain is not acceptable to you in this legislation," Talarico asked.

"Well, we currently do not require parental consent to meet with school counselors," Hefner said.

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.