Religious chaplains will likely soon be permitted to act as school counselors in K-12 schools in Florida.Religious chaplains will likely soon be permitted to act as school counselors in K-12 schools in Florida.
Religious chaplains will likely soon be permitted to act as school counselors in K-12 schools in Florida.

Chaplains may be allowed in public schools

Published on March 8, 2024 at 12:16 pm

Religious chaplains will likely soon be permitted to act as school counselors in K-12 schools in Florida.

The Florida Senate approved a bill Thursday that lets school districts and charter schools adopt policies allowing volunteers to serve as a chaplain, or a religious representative, to students. The House approved the bill last month.

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All chaplains would be listed in a document sent to parents with their religion included, and parental consent would be required before a student could meet with a chaplain.

Democrats opposed the bill on the Senate floor, citing concerns that it would place religion into public schools, violating separation of church and state.

Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, says religious activity should be something that happens outside of school.

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“I went to Hebrew school after school. There was no mention of anything religious during the day. And that is our choice as a family to do or not to do,” Polskey said. “We are already funding religious schools with our voucher money. When is enough, enough?”

Sen. Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville, disagrees. He argues that since parents must give permission for their children to meet with a chaplain, that doesn’t violate requirements for the separation of church and state.

“There is not a forcing of participation. If parents don’t want their child to participate, they don’t have to,” Yarborough said. “So, I see it as a balanced way to go about this.”

The bill will become law on July 1, 2024 if it is not vetoed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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author image Tristan Wood is a senior producer and host with WFSU Public Media. A South Florida native and University of Florida graduate, he focuses on state government in the Sunshine State and local Panhandle political happenings. Before joining the WFSU team, Tristan spent three years covering the legislature with outlets including Florida Politics, City & State Florida and Fresh Take Florida.
author image Tristan Wood is a senior producer and host with WFSU Public Media. A South Florida native and University of Florida graduate, he focuses on state government in the Sunshine State and local Panhandle political happenings. Before joining the WFSU team, Tristan spent three years covering the legislature with outlets including Florida Politics, City & State Florida and Fresh Take Florida.

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