School districts across the state are weighing in on Senate Bill 763 – each has been required by the Texas Legislature to vote on policy outlining whether and, if so, how the school employs chaplains or accepts them as volunteers to provide counseling to students.
At Gladewater ISD, board members adopted a basic volunteer option with no discussion Nov. 14 and a rare roll call vote (per the 88th Legislature’s requirements) that passed 4-0 with three trustees absent.
The issue is undecided at White Oak ISD. The bill set a deadline of March 1, 2024, for some degree of action on the law, and the district’s trustees followed Superintendent Dr. William Paul’s Nov. 13 recommendation to consider their options further.
“Anybody that’s ever worked in or been around a school, especially in a small town, knows that your clergy are always there for support, if you need them,” Paul said. “Ours are no different. I think the ones we have in this town are pretty involved.
“There’s really four options we have. First thing we can do is we can decline to adopt a policy. According to this information we have right here, it doesn’t really change anything about where we are right now.”
A second option is to keep current policy in place and affirm the district won’t expand it further.
A third option is to not do anything, officially acknowledging “We want to study it a little further.” Fourth, the district can adopt a new policy and put standards in place.
“What those standards are is really up to us,” Paul said. “Keep in mind, anybody that’s going to volunteer on our campus is going to have some kind of background check anyway.”
There’s no need for immediate action, he repeated.
“When I asked around as far as what other districts are doing, it’s kind of all over the place,” Paul added.
“You’ve got some that are saying, ‘No, not at all.’ You’ve got others that want chaplains to come in and play a more active role. Maybe they don’t have the staff that we have access to.
“As far as the majority, I couldn’t tell you.”
Gladewater’s plans are still developing, Superintendent Dr. Sedric Clark confirmed.
“We just adopted that we would use them as volunteers,” he said. “We have not laid out the way yet.
“Thankfully, we have pastors and ministers who have always been active at our schools. We’ll just be making it formal now… saying exactly what they can and will not do.”
– By James Draper