Local ISD Allows Chaplains After Fiery Debate

Keller ISD Sign
Keller ISD Sign | Image by NBC DFW

Another public school district has voted on the so-called chaplain bill passed this year by Texas lawmakers, deciding to open its schools’ doors to unlicensed religious volunteer services.

Keller Independent School District’s board of trustees held a meeting on Monday night to vote on whether to allow chaplains to serve in its schools. After considerable public debate and the departure of one trustee, a resolution was approved in which chaplains can “provide support, services, and programs for students” as volunteers.

“There’s no intent to replace counselors with chaplains,” clarified John Allison, interim superintendent, according to KERA.

As previously covered in The Dallas Express, Senate Bill 763 allows unlicensed chaplains to serve board-approved volunteer duties in public schools, as well as take on paid positions as mental health counselors using safety funds. The legislation, which went into effect on September 1, requires school boards to vote on whether they intend to enlist these services by March 1.

During the meeting in Keller on December 11, those in favor and opposed to taking advantage of the chaplain bill addressed trustees.

“If I had my way, it would be God first in everything. I think this is a great compromise,” said one parent, according to Fox 4 KDFW.

“More than 100 chaplains opposed this bill about chaplains, that is telling,” said another parent, per Fox 4, referring to a letter signed by Texas chaplains in late August claiming the policy would violate religious freedom and strip funding from qualified mental health professionals, as reported in The Dallas Express.

The discussion was contentious, leading to at least one expulsion as well as one trustee’s resignation.

“This resolution has locked in my decision to step down from this board,” trustee Ruthie Keyes said prior to walking out of the meeting, according to KERA.

Keyes had served on the board for 11 years, although her resignation has reportedly not been made official yet.

Dallas ISD has gone the other way on this issue, voting in October not to allow chaplains to serve as volunteers or otherwise in its schools, as previously covered in The Dallas Express.

Only 41% of Dallas ISD students scored at grade level on the 2021-2022 STAAR exam, according to the Texas Education Agency accountability report. Keller ISD students bested this and the state average of 48%, with them achieving grade level on the same exam.

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