The Lamar CISD board heard a presentation from the administration regarding the options and timeline of a state-mandated vote to create a policy to comply with Senate Bill 763, the so-called “chaplain” law as written in Chapter 23 of the state education code.

Chief Student Service Officer Marlon Waites presented a brief presentation regarding the district’s obligations under the new law, which requires the board to approve the creation of a policy by the administration for board approval.

The bill would allow school districts to replace counselors with unlicensed chaplains.

Current situation

FBISD already has processes in place to handle grief or trauma counseling:
  • Currently, there is not a counselor shortage, nor is there a budget shortage for staffing counselors, according to Waites.
  • Counselors are trained to provide support and programs for all students.
  • Any person, including chaplains, may volunteer to support students but must go through a background check.
  • No volunteers or staff are allowed to attempt to convert or advocate any religious beliefs.
The options

The controversial law states the board must ultimately decide whether to employ chaplains or accept them as volunteers, and a summary of the language in the bill is as follows:
  • Volunteer chaplains would provide support, services or programs to students.
  • Chaplains could not attempt to proselytize, or convert or advocate, religious beliefs.
  • Chaplains are not subject to a requirement of certification from the state.
  • If employed, they must be paid out of the School Safety Allotment, which LCISD has already budgeted for additional police officers.
What else?

Most board members expressed concern regarding the screening of potential volunteer chaplain candidates and noted that the language of the law does not adequately define “chaplain”—a title that does not necessarily denote someone as having received proper religious instruction in the traditional sense, trustees said.

In a letter received by school board members across the state, over 170 chaplains from three organizations oppose the bill based on the use of unlicensed chaplains. Those three organizations are as follows:
  • Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty
  • Interfaith Alliance
  • Texas Impact
What’s next

The board must act in response to the law by Feb. 1, 2024, and will further consider its options at the next regular board meeting Oct. 17.