Chaplains will not be allowed to be employed or volunteer as school counselors in McKinney ISD.

The district’s board of trustees voted 6-1 on the policy during a Sept. 25 meeting. Trustee Chad Green cast the lone vote for the policy update. The decision came in response to a requirement that school boards across the state take a recorded vote regarding the new policy on allowing chaplains to serve as counselors.

“We need to have professional counselors counseling children,” MISD board Vice President Amy Dankel said. “Just like we need professional teachers teaching to the children [and] just like we need professional librarians filling the library with books. That’s what needs to happen.”

The background

The vote by the board puts the district in compliance with Senate Bill 763, which went into effect Sept. 1. Per the bill, school boards across the state are required to take action on whether to adopt a policy authorizing district campuses to accept chaplains for counseling aid. District school boards have until March 1, 2024, to take a vote, said Aretha Jackson, MISD’s senior director of legal affairs.

Diving in deeper

A chaplain employed by the school district is not required to be certified by the State Board of Education, Jackson said.

Professional school counselors are required to earn a master’s degree and complete a 48-hour program in school counseling or a closely related mental health field, said Jennifer Akins, MISD senior director of guidance and counseling. These programs require counselors to take formal coursework in topics such as mental health, comprehensive school counseling program design, small-group counseling strategies, and family and community engagement, she said.

Counselors must also complete a supervised practicum and pass a state-level certification exam, Akins said.

“There are few roles in education that have received as much attention in the definition and shaping in the Texas Education Code as the professional school counseling role,” she said.

Akins said she respects those who contribute to the “greater good” in the McKinney community. While the chaplains would not have been employed in lieu of school counselors, Akins said to her understanding, the bill was created to provide support to districts that are facing a school counselor shortage.

MISD is known as a destination district for professional school counselors and attracts interns across North Texas, she said.

“Our social workers, our chaplains [and] our other community leaders, they do important work, and we're so fortunate to live in a community that has those resources and those great partnerships,” Akins said.