The Katy ISD board of trustees presented a resolution at the Feb. 19 board workshop meeting in response to the March 1 deadline stipulated by Senate Bill 763; the resolution will be voted on at the regular board meeting Feb. 26.

SB 763, which passed in the 2023 Texas legislative session, allows Texas public school districts to change their policy to allow chaplains, or clergy members, to be employed by the district or volunteer at the district in a student counseling capacity. The bill stipulates the funding for such hiring can be taken from the school safety portion of district budgets.

If the resolution rejecting the bill is approved, KISD will join other Houston-area school districts that also declined adopting the policy, including Cy-Fair ISD and Lamar Consolidated ISD. However, others, such as Fort Bend ISD, have yet to vote on the bill.

What they’re saying

The board discussed the merits of changing district policy under the new law as well as the topic of parental rights. Some trustees said they believed the language of the bill was so broad and nonspecific, and placed too great of a burden on the board to formulate a new policy.

“I agree with parental rights and think that the parent is the primary educator of their children,” trustee Rebecca Fox said. “They should [have] absolute rights over their children and they should ... be the ones who expose them to religion and the values of their family.”

However, other board members urged further consideration of creating a policy with parameters that would allow chaplains to volunteer in a counseling capacity.

“This statute has given us the ability to come in and do what we want with this,” trustee Morgan Calhoun said. “That is our right to create policy and parameters that protect parents' parental rights, which I will always stand behind.”

What else?

Public comment during the workshop meeting was almost unanimously against the district changing district policy to hire chaplains as counselors as SB 763 provides. Of the dozen speakers, only one spoke in favor of the measure.

Speakers who opposed changing policy in accordance with the bill cited the following concerns:
  • Lack of state funding for hiring chaplains
  • Chaplains lack of experience counseling children
  • Parental rights concerns
  • Freedom of religion
  • Separation of church and state
  • The risk of litigation against the district
  • Further alienation of students
What’s next?

The board will hear public comment regarding the bill during the Feb. 26 regular meeting. Members of the public wishing to speak during the meeting may register online.