The Lamar Consolidated ISD board of trustees voted 6-1 against creating a new district policy to consider the hiring of chaplains in the district that could have been allowed under Senate Bill 763, the controversial chaplain law, as written in Chapter 23 of the State Education Code.

Chief Student Service Officer Marlon Waites presented a brief summary of his presentation from the Sept. 19 board meeting regarding the district’s obligations under the new law—which took effect Sept. 1—that allows school districts to replace counselors with unlicensed chaplains.

How it happened

Trustees discussed two primary reasons against moving forward:

  • The district already allows volunteer chaplains in district schools.
  • Any chaplains hired under the new law would have to be paid from already existing funds being used to meet the state mandate for armed officers, per House Bill 3.

“I feel like that's something right now that's already allowed in our schools. ... We allow volunteers to come in and do those things, and I do think it adds value. Whether or not we need to employ someone, I think that's a different story,” trustee Suzanne Box said.

The other side

Trustee Jon Welch, who was in favor of crafting a new policy that could be tailored to the district’s needs allowing for the hiring of chaplains, said because the “separation of church and state” was not in the U.S. Constitution, the board should take the opportunity to opt in under the new law.

The takeaway

The board’s decision is final, Chief Communications Officer Sonya-Cole-Hamilton said in an email regarding the vote.