FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 21, 2023
CONTACT: Emily Witt (she/hers), [email protected]
AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas State House Committee on Public Education today voted House Bill 3614 out during a formal meeting. The bill would allow school districts to hire chaplains instead of professional school counselors to perform school counseling duties.
The bill would also lift the requirements for chaplains, having them bypass the years of education and experience required of current counselors. Although not labeled a companion bill, SB 763 is written almost verbatim to HB 3614 and has already been voted out of its assigned Senate committee.
Texas Freedom Network’s Just Texas Faith Organizer Shan Schaffer issued the following response:
“Texas students, who are a diverse community with varied religious views and cultural practices, deserve to enjoy true religious freedom at public schools without being forced to learn according to the religious right’s belief system.
“Finding your own spiritual journey is a deeply personal one that should be guided by a child’s personal connections, not forced upon them by strangers that were not directly given trust by the child or their parent. HB 3614 and SB 763 create not only barriers to religious freedom but also put LGBTQIA+ children at risk of discrimination and harm that could have been avoided if legislators instead focused on funding enough trained, accepting counselors.
“Texas Freedom Network sees the problems with HB 3614 and SB 763, as do the progressive faith leaders we work alongside through our Just Texas project. Lawmakers need to see how this legislation would actively harm children by not giving them access to qualified professionals in a place where, and at a time when, they arguably need them more than ever. Children and Texas families need legislators to vote no on HB 3614 and SB 763.”
A Houston Chronicle study done last year found that all but four of the 1,200 public school and open-enrollment charter districts in Texas failed to meet the Texas Education Agency’s recommendation of one counselor per 250 students.