New Texas Law Allows School Districts to Hire Chaplains to Provide Counseling Services to Students
In 2023, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 763 governing the employment or acceptance of volunteer services of “chaplains” by public school district and open enrollment charter schools. Between now and March 2024, each of the 1200 Texas school district boards and open enrollment charter schools must vote on whether they will accept chaplains to provide mental health services to students.
Prior to this law, if a school district provided mental health counseling services to students it would employ licensed counselors, social workers, or psychologists. Some proponents of this law were concerned that due to a statewide shortage of such school counselors, students needing these services would be unable to get any professional help from their schools. Others expressed concern that the cost of hiring licensed mental health counselors might be too great for some school districts to afford.
Many citizens and religious groups are opposed to the chaplain law because they believe that chaplains may not be properly trained in child and adolescent behavior and could have a religious approach that would clash with a student’s faith or have an agenda to proselytize students. The new law does not define the term “chaplain” nor provide any educational or other professional standards a chaplain must meet to qualify. The only qualification listed in the law is that the chaplain not be convicted as a sex offender or placed on deferred adjudication for such a crime. In fact, the law specifically provides that no state educational certification is required.
RAC-TX, the advocacy arm of the Reform Jewish movement in Texas, is joining with other Jewish and interfaith organizations in Texas to raise awareness about the chaplain bill and its potential impacts for Jewish and other students in Texas public schools. Your voice on this matter is important and your school district needs to hear from you before they vote on whether to accept chaplains as school counselors.
Join RAC-TX on Zoom from 6-7p.m. CT on October 11, 2023 to learn more about the chaplain bill and how you can take action with your own local school board and beyond. Registration is required and participants can register here.
For more information, contact Erica Strauss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 214.706.0000 ext. 4002.