In response to a new state law, Austin ISD will vote on the capabilities of volunteer chaplains in schools, who are clergy members that typically provide spiritual care.

The gist

Senate Bill 763, which passed during the 88th legislative session, allows for schools to employ chaplains as either someone who will perform the duties of school counselors or to accept chaplains as volunteers.

Texas school boards are required to take a record vote before March 1 to either adopt or reject the policy, meaning each trustee is required to vote individually on the measure. School districts have three options to pursue: hire chaplains to perform the duties of a school counselor, accept chaplains as volunteers or reject any use of chaplains.

AISD already allows volunteers in schools and is considering the route of not taking any action on the item due to this.

What they’re saying

During a board information session Oct. 12, board Secretary Lynn Boswell expressed the need for improved language on the item if trustees move to not take any action. Boswell suggested including that chaplains are welcome to serve as volunteers in AISD as long as they are qualified for a specific role.

“I would like to consider as a board adding some nuance to that decision and really stating explicitly that we declined to expand the option for people who are qualified as chaplains but not as counselors to take those positions of salaried professional or paraprofessional employees,” Boswell said. “The chaplain is not, in [AISD], a qualification to be a school counselor.”

Boswell referenced Rock Round ISD’s decision on the bill as a model for AISD to consider. RRISD chose to allow chaplains to volunteer in the district but will not allow them to perform counseling duties or fill any role related to mental health, as previously reported by Community Impact.

Other board members echoed Boswell’s comments to vote on the item specifying the importance of upholding what the district already has in place for volunteers.

“We have policies in place. Our policies work for us,” board Vice President Kevin Foster said. “This is another example of the state reaching its hands in where it really just doesn't have any business.”

During public comment, an AISD parent expressed concerns on the item.

“The district must ensure that [mental health] services are provided by those with training that aligns with best practices for the industry,” Sharon Vein said. “We also should ensure that in keeping with the district's religion in schools handbook and federal law, the district does not allow even the appearance of endorsing one religion over another.”

What’s next

The board of trustees will vote on the matter at its next meeting Oct. 26 at 6 p.m. For more information, visit