Florida To Allow Volunteer Chaplains in Schools

Apr 22, 2024

KISSIMMEE, FL – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law last week that allows K-12 public and charter schools in the state the option of having volunteer chaplain programs on campus. The law passed overwhelmingly in both the Florida House and Senate earlier this year by a vote of 89-25 and 28-12, respectively.

HB 931, which is set to take effect July 1, authorizes voluntary chaplains to “provide supports, services, and programs to students as assigned by the district school board or charter school governing board.”  The new law will require any volunteer chaplain to pass a background check and that school administrators publicize each chaplain’s religious affiliation. The measure also stipulated that students must obtain written parental consent before a student participates in any volunteer chaplain program. 

In a press conference, Gov. DeSantis stated the bill clarifies any “confusion” that schools “have a right” to offer chaplain services and can allow them on campus to be an additional resource or option to support student counseling needs.

Gov. DeSantis emphasized the voluntary nature of the chaplain programs and that no one would be forced to take part. He further noted that having a chaplaincy model similar to that of the armed forces that offers mentorship, counseling, and spiritual support to students would be an “indispensable part of a good education” and something the Founders would have approved. 

In 2023, Texas became the first state to allow volunteer chaplains to complement school counselors in providing support services for students. At least 17 states have either passed or are advancing similar legislation.

Chaplains have a long history of service within the military and in many police and fire departments, prisons, and faith-based schools around the country. The Oklahoma-based National School Chaplain Association (NSCA), which provides chaplains in more than 30,000 public schools in 23 countries, states the goal of a school chaplain is to help provide students and teachers with “spiritual care” amid the prevalence of violence, bullying, and mental health issues.

The NSCA claims that schools with chaplains have seen significant decreases in violence, bullying, dropout rates as well as improved school safety, teacher retention, and grades. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Florida joins Texas as one of the first states in the nation to officially allow chaplains in public schools. Trained chaplains have been the traditional ‘spiritual’ first responders in our military, and they can make a positive difference in the lives of students and teachers. While the law does not stipulate any qualification requirements for the chaplains, school boards should be very selective in choosing trained chaplains with counseling and ministry experience.” 

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