Humble ISD trustees opted against the use of chaplains as a replacement for counselors to provide mental health services to students within the district.

The overview

During the board’s Feb. 20 meeting, trustees unanimously approved a resolution stating the district would not employ chaplains to provide mental health services.

However, the resolution said any chaplain applying for a job as a counselor would be considered for employment as long as that individual met all of the training and certification requirements laid out for that role.

Additionally, officials said the district would continue to allow chaplains to serve on campuses on a volunteer basis as long as students have received permission from their parents to seek out their services.

How we got here

The option to employ chaplains comes following the passage of Senate Bill 763, which gives public school districts the option to hire or accept religiously affiliated chaplains as volunteers.

According to the bill, districts can use state funding otherwise designated for licensed counselors, social workers and police officers to employ unlicensed chaplains to provide mental and behavioral health services and oversee suicide prevention programs.

The bill requires school officials to hold a vote to determine whether their district will employ the use of chaplains by March 1.

HISD trustees discussed the possibility of employing chaplains during the Dec. 12 board meeting before deciding to send the item to the district’s advocacy committee for further review.

What they're saying

During the Feb. 20 meeting, trustee Martina Lemond Dixon said the matter had been thoroughly discussed at several advocacy committee meetings.

“We met with our state senator to really discuss the bill, [and] we also met with faith-based leaders both for and against,” Lemond Dixon said. “We looked at all sides. ... We did the due diligence that we needed to do in order to move this forward.”

Trustee Marques Holmes said that while he did not want to minimize the importance of chaplains in certain settings, he did not believe they should replace counselors within the district.

“There are some school districts in Texas that I believe this is absolutely the right program to do, but not for a 50,000-plus-student district,” Holmes said. “We have a counseling program that is thriving and doing great.”

The decision to opt against the employment of chaplains came after 10 campuses were honored during the meeting for receiving the Counselors Reinforcing Excellence for Students in Texas award.

Melissa Leigh, the district’s director of personalized student success, touted the more than 40 counselors involved at the campuses receiving the award.

“Our students benefit from a comprehensive and personalized counseling program, and these 10 campuses have demonstrated their commitment to our students and their success,” Leigh said. “This is a historic year for Humble ISD with 10 campuses achieving this milestone. Previously, our highest number of winners was four.”