During a tense meeting that included shouting from several Keller ISD parents, causing board President Charles Randklev to remove some of the more raucous audience members and one board member to walk out before the vote was cast, the Keller ISD board voted 6-0 to approve a resolution to accept volunteer chaplains.

How it happened

Before the board discussed the resolution, interim Superintendent John Allison informed the audience why the board was taking action on it. He said the resolution helps the board meet the requirements for Senate Bill 763, a law that was passed that allows districts to employ a chaplain instead of a school counselor to perform the duties of a school counselor.

Allison went on to say there is no intent to replace counselors with chaplains. He reminded the audience all volunteers go through background checks and must abide by district guidelines.

“Tonight’s resolution doesn’t change that at all,” Allison said.

The backstory

According to district documents, Section 23.001 of the Texas Education Code permits the district to accept as a volunteer a chaplain to provide support, services and programs for students as assigned by the board of trustees.

District documents also state Senate Bill 763, which was passed by the 88th Texas Legislature, requires each school board in the state to take a record vote between Sept. 1 and March 1 on whether to adopt a policy authorizing campuses to accept a chaplain as a volunteer.

Diving in deeper

Several members of the audience spoke out against the resolution during the public comments portion of the meeting, including Jeff Cohen, immediate past president of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville. Cohen said he was among four people who were held hostage on Jan. 15, 2022, when a gunman entered the synagogue during services.

“I’ve seen firsthand when religious fervor goes wrong,” Cohen said. “Even people with the best intentions will say the wrong things. [For example], tell a girl whose mother just died of cancer that she didn’t pray hard enough. Friends, that’s just not what we need right now.”

Board Vice President Sandi Walker, Place 3, said by approving the resolution, the board was doing what many other public entities have already had in place for years.

“Chaplains serve our legislative bodies, our military, hospitals, college campuses, police departments, fire and other first responders, collegiate and professional sports teams, and our prison system,” Walker said.

As Place 7 trustee Ruthie Keyes began to speak out against the resolution, she was interrupted by Randklev, who said Keyes was speaking about a separate issue. That argument caused a member of the audience to interrupt the meeting and then be escorted from the building by police.

Keyes followed that audience member out of the building shortly after, stating, “For those of you who want to hear the end of [my statement], I’ll be right out there.”