Northside ISD trustees voted Feb. 27 to not revise policy to allow chaplains into schools.

The background

Texas state lawmakers in 2023 approved Senate Bill 763, which permits public school boards to determine whether their district should have chaplains provide support to students in schools.

Chaplains are religious representatives who serve in nonreligious surroundings, such as military units, hospitals, prisons and schools.

Texas school boards had until March 1 to vote on adopting a policy on chaplains for their respective district.

North East ISD is among several San Antonio-area public school districts whose leaders voted to keep their policy in place and not employ school chaplains.

What they’re saying

At the Feb. 27 board meeting, NISD officials said they felt existing local policy adequately addressed permitting the employment of campus chaplains or similar paid positions.

Two meeting attendees spoke against having chaplains in public schools.

Barbara Baruch said she opposed paid, noncertified chaplains being on campus. She added every NISD student should have access to a spiritual counselor of their or parents’ choosing.

“I urge you to leave religious counseling to our parents and ministers selected by them,” Baruch said.

Melina Espiritu-Azocar, Northside American Federation of Teachers president, called SB 763 “dangerous,” especially to Northside’s LGBTQ students, students of color or those with nondenominational background. She also criticized SB 763 for not requiring what she described as proper training for chaplains serving on a public campus.

“A chaplain with no training would be dangerous for my child,” Espiritu-Azocar said.

Board Secretary Gerald Lopez said he shared sentiment expressed by Espiritu-Azocar.

“[Permitting school chaplains] would be kind of challenging,” Lopez said.

Northside ISD trustees voted Feb. 27 to not revise policy to allow chaplains into schools.