Chaplains in Schools

A new law now enables districts to opt in to hiring chaplains to work with or in lieu of school counselors starting next school year.  Texas chaplains will soon be counseling students in public schools across the state.

Like any employee, each chaplain must pass a background check, but they do not need to be certified in any way by the State Board for Educator Certification. However, they must be endorsed by a religious organization.

School counselors, on the other hand, must hold several certifications to be a counselor in a public school in Texas.  Per TASB, these requirements include:

  • Successfully complete a school counselor preparation program
  • Passed the school counselor certification exam
  • Hold, at a minimum, a 48-hour master’s degree in counseling from an accredited institution of higher education
  • Have two creditable years of teaching experience as a classroom teacher

Given the difficulty of securing quality, qualified personnel, this could be a boon for districts who need caring, capable adults on their campus to help meet the needs of students.  Some campuses cannot find substitutes to fill open positions, much less a permanent hire.  Chaplains can help fill some openings, and many are in support of this because of (or despite) the spiritual aspect.  There are obvious benefits to this new law.

However, some fear that chaplains would replace counselors, who, frankly, are responsible for much more than students’ emotional well-being.  School counselors have many job duties, including registration, scheduling, test administration, etc.  Will chaplains be able to fulfill these duties in schools in which they have replaced the counselor?

And, of course, some families do not approve of religion or spirituality in a public school, nor do they want their child to be counseled by a religious person.  Others wonder if a representative of a religion other than Christianity could be hired.  Like much in modern public education, this is a new, gray area that is ripe for controversy.

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