Katy ISD plan to hire clergy people as school counselors is a breach of parental rights, parent says

State Sen. Mayes Middleton, R-Galveston, authored SB 763, empowering public schools to hire clergy people as counselors.

Chaz Miller Image
Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Chaplains as counselors? It could happen in Katy ISD
Some Katy ISD parents and at least one religious leader are panning the district's consideration of hiring chaplains as school counselors.

KATY, Texas (KTRK) -- A group of Katy Independent School District parents are upset that the district is considering hiring chaplains to work for the district.

That consideration was made possible by Senate Bill 763, a state law that went into effect this year giving districts the option to hire chaplains for roles traditionally held by school counselors.

The chaplains aren't required to be certified per the language of the bill.

Katy ISD discussed the issue at a school board work study meeting on Monday night, and all six public speakers commenting on the matter were against the potential move.

"Subjecting my children to religious indoctrination while they're at public school is a breach of my parental rights to decide when, where, and how my children are exposed to religious ideology," Lisa Lister-Browne said.

The district said it wouldn't comment on Monday night's meeting since it's only a discussion at this point but added no jobs would be cut should this take place.

State Sen. Mayes Middleton, the Republican who authored the bill and represents areas like Pearland, Galveston, and Texas City, praised the legislation in a Facebook post from May.

"I believe that chaplains will greatly benefit our school students, teachers, and other school district staff," he wrote. "Our schools are not God-free zones."

On the contrary, Rev. Jennifer Hawks is a reverend and practices constitutional law with the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

The organization works to promote the separation of church and state, and she thinks using chaplains for this purpose is a bad idea.

"Chaplains do amazing work within our society," Hawks said. "But they are not trained to be public school counselors."

The Katy ISD school board would ultimately have to vote on the plan to hire chaplains should the district choose to go in that direction.

Lamar Consolidated ISD voted against hiring chaplains at a school board meeting in October.

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