Why Chaplains in Texas Public Schools are a Bad Idea

Both chaplains and school counselors fill important roles, but they are not interchangeable.

Valentine Wiggin

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Books, an apple, and colored pencils on a wooden desk
Source: Element5 Digital on Unsplash

SB 763 would permit public schools in Texas to hire chaplains in public schools instead of school counselors. These chaplains will perform the duties of school counselors outlined in Title II of Texas’s education laws. Title II tasks Texan school counselors with interpreting assessment data, and managing emergencies and threats with evidence-based methods.

While the scope of practice of the school counselor does not change, allowing chaplains to assume this title raises many questions. This bill does not clarify whether or not these chaplains will receive additional training for the nature of this work. Ordinarily, school counselors have a bachelor’s, master’s, or even doctorate degree in psychology, education, or counseling. Not only that, but they need to pass licensing exams and receive continuing education to maintain said license.

Like school counselors, chaplains receive college education. However, they typically specialize in theology rather than the aforementioned fields. They tend to work with hospitals or the military, providing spiritual support to those who need or want it. The chaplain typically adapts the support they give to the needs of the person receiving it and typically do not coerce anyone into adopting or abandoning certain ideals or beliefs.

Although chaplains are often strictly prohibited from proselytizing, this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen or that they won’t find ways to passively enforce Christian normativity without mentioning Christ or Christianity. Even if chaplains are trained to work with people of all faiths, the profession is heavily rooted in Christianity and their mere presence can cement Christianity as the default.

Even though a school counselor and a chaplain may be educated equally on paper, they aren’t necessarily trained in the same things during that education. Because they don’t necessarily have the same skill set, they are not interchangeable. They can even do harm when fulfilling roles they are not trained in. For example, a chaplain may not recognize the signs of learning or developmental disabilities in children and refer the…

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Valentine Wiggin

Death-positive, sex-positive, and LGBTQ-affirming Christian. Gen Z. I hate onions. She/her