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Board votes no to chaplains as school counselors

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

The San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District board of trustees decided against hiring chaplains to perform the duties of a school counselor at the regularly scheduled meeting Monday. Senate Bill 763 was recently passed by the Texas Legislature, which according to the Texas Legislature online website, states that a school district may employ a chaplain instead of a school counselor to perform the duties required of a school counselor under this title.

San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District Board President Anne Halsey said the board of trustees was only required to consider the item.

San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District Trustee at Large Mari Salmi made a motion against the item.

“I’d like to move that we not allow unlicensed counselors … to serve as counselors in our school district as volunteers or paid staff,” Salmi said. Her motion was voted for seven to zero.

Halsey added that if someone is a licensed counselor and a chaplain then they could be considered for the position.

Halsey said that the district has worked to bolster their counseling services, and she prefers to maintain the standards that have already been put in place.

“We have expanded our social and emotional well-being from … a clinical psychologist in the preschool as well as at the high school and one of our elementary schools. We have social-emotional counselors available at every campus,” Halsey said, adding that chaplains certainly have an important role in the community and schools, just not in that capacity. “I am personally grateful for the work that our faithbased community does in our schools, including our faith based leaders.”

San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District Board Vice President Clementine Cantu agreed with keeping things as is.

“We have spent a lot of money and time getting counselors for our school district,” Cantu said. “I feel we’ve got excellent counselors … We do not need to expand our counseling program ... Furthermore, I believe in separation of church and state. If no one else will say it. I’ll say it.”

San Marcos Trustee District-1 Jessica Cain is a chaplain herself and was also in agreement.

“We do not have the training to counsel, especially elementary school children,” Cain said. “I took several classes on pastoral care and every … class period they said, ‘You are not a counselor. You will not be a counselor unless you come back for a second master’s degree to do that.’ And so, I also am concerned with both qualifications and the separation of church and state.”

Cantu said that chaplains could volunteer for the Big Brother/ Big Sister program that has recently been added, which Halsey agreed is “an urgent need.”

For more information on the National Institute of Justice Big Brother/ Big Sister program go to ratedprograms.

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666