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Carroll ISD allows chaplains as counselors – if they’re qualified

Carroll ISD board members sit at a long desk during a board meeting.
Carroll ISD
Carroll ISD trustees voted unanimously to allow schools to accept chaplains as hired counselors if they meet state requirements.

In a state-mandated vote, Carroll ISD trustees on Monday unanimously adopted a policy allowing district schools to hire chaplains as counselors so long as they meet the same “requirements, qualifications... and expectations” of any guidance counselor in the state, as codified in the Texas Education Code.

“We're not hiring chaplains to replace counselors,” said board President Cameron Bryan. “If somebody is a chaplain and they have the same qualifications and meet the standards of CISD counselors, they are more than welcome to apply... and compete with everybody else.”

The controversial Senate Bill 763 requires every school district to vote on accepting — or rejecting — chaplains as school counselors, volunteer or paid.

There are roughly 1,200 districts across Texas.

The bill’s author, Republican Sen. Mayes Middleton, explained it could help relieve the mental health burden on students, faculty and staff, especially since the outbreak of COVID 19.

Discussions of SB 763 votes have evolved over time. Many North Texas district boards early on, including Dallas ISD, rejected chaplains as hired counselors, but some accepted them as volunteers – just as they allow anyone to volunteer in schools once they pass a background check and are approved by officials.

Carroll’s vote represents the latest variation and is similar to a recent vote in Grapevine-Colleyville ISD. Trustees there clarified that “The District will not treat differently an applicant who is also a chaplain, just as with any other District position.”

Carroll board president Bryan chastised lawmakers for forcing the vote of every school board in the state “because our legislature, for whatever reason, mandated by law that this legislative body should take a vote, which makes zero sense to me why another legislative body would legislate us.”

Districts must take their votes by March 1, 2024.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.