GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — The Georgetown Independent School District unanimously approved a resolution to accept chaplains as volunteers, with six trustees voting in favor of the resolution on Monday during a board meeting. Trustee Cody Hirt was absent.
In June, Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 763 into law, which permits school districts to use school safety funding to hire chaplains or allow them to volunteer in public schools.
After the vote, GISD board member Anthony Blankenship made a comment, saying when people from the community reach out, their voice and concerns are heard.
“I just want to reiterate that my vote for this in no way is voting to remove counselors, replace counselors, [or] play any sort of political or religious favoritism within our public schools,” he said. “I understand the importance of keeping these things separate. We already have this system in place. I just want to make sure that those who are in the community who are gracious enough to volunteer their time and their effort and their energy to our precious, loved children, still have the avenue to do so.”
SB 763 does not require chaplains to have any certification, unlike school counselors, who are required to hold a certification from the State Board for Educator Certification.
In order to counsel children in Texas public schools, a prospective counselor must:
- Complete a state-approved Educator Preparation Program for school counseling;
- Hold a master’s degree from an accredited institution; and,
- Complete a test from the State Board for Educator Certification.
The law went into effect on Sept. 1. School districts and the governing bodies of open-enrollment charter schools are required to, before March 2024, hold a vote on if they will authorize school chaplains.
More than 100 Texas chaplains issued a letter in August urging school board members in the state to keep chaplains out of public schools.
The chaplains who signed the letter said the chaplaincy programs are an “affront to the religious freedom rights of students and parents as well as church-state separation, and the programs would take funding away from trained mental health professionals who are better equipped to serve students.”