Texas ISDs vote to allow volunteer chaplains to serve in schools

Move comes ahead of March deadline after passage of SB763

A screenshot of video from the Keller ISD school board on December 11, 2023.
A screenshot of video from the Keller ISD school board on December 11, 2023. | Screenshot/YouTube/Keller ISD

Chaplains serve in all areas from society, from the military and police departments to sports teams and county jails — and starting next year, they’ll be in Texas schools.

Two school districts in Tarrant County, located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, have adopted policies to allow chaplains to serve in their respective schools, in addition to personnel already serving as mental health counselors.

The Keller and Grapevine-Colleyville school districts both approved their respective policies Monday evening in board meetings which turned heated at times.

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

During the Keller ISD meeting, trustee Sandi Walker, a mother of six and a youth leader in her local church, said, “Why chaplains? Well, students are hurting. This should not shock anyone. ... School counselors and chaplains do not compete with one another. Allowing volunteer chaplains is another touch point in providing crucial services to a student or a staff member in need.

“If it is OK for a chaplain to go into a school after a tragedy occurred, it should be OK for that same chaplain to go into a school before an event happens,” Walker added.

Moments later, trustee Ruthie Keyes asked concernedly whether there was “a possibility somewhere down the line that one of these chaplains could be employed by the district?"

Keyes added that she believes the language "opens up many, many possibilities" before delivering what appeared to be her resignation from the school board.

"This resolution has locked in my decision to step down from this board,” she said. “I'm curious about the inclusion of chaplains from diverse faiths or will this mirror the prayers at our meetings? I believe it is critical to prioritize open communication, community input, and transparent decision-making to truly serve the interests of our students and their families."

After her statement drew a comment from board President Charles Randklev, the two members became involved in a tense exchange with each other and a member of the audience. Keyes then announced she would be leaving and abruptly exited the meeting.

It wasn’t clear whether Keyes’ statement qualified as an official resignation notice. Her current term on the school board will expire in May 2024, according to the Keller ISD website.

The Christian Post reached out to Keyes for comment Wednesday. This story will be updated if a response is received.

The approved resolution allows for any Keller ISD campus “to accept as a volunteer a chaplain pursuant to the expectations in this resolution and existing District policy and practices.” 

It does not, however, authorize chaplains to fulfill the duties of school counselors at the district.

Both districts adopted the policies in response to Senate Bill 763, which requires school boards to vote on or before March 1, 2024, on whether to adopt similar policies allowing volunteer chaplains to serve in their schools. 

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the law earlier this year before it went into effect Sept. 1.

Prior to SB763 taking effect, more than 100 progressive chaplains from multiple religions, primarily affiliated with hospice programs, hospitals, universities, prisons or the military, urged all Texas school board members to vote against the creation of a “paid or volunteer chaplain program to ‘provide support, services, and programs for students.”

In the Aug. 22 letter. the signatories urged school boards to “reject this flawed policy option,” expressing concern that “SB 763 allows a school district to give any employee or volunteer who can pass a background check the title of ‘chaplain.’” 

According to the chaplains, “This is simply not enough. Professional chaplains have specific education and expertise to fulfill our role in helping others engage their own religious practices and traditions.”

Ryan Binkley, a Texas pastor running for president as a Republican, spoke out in favor of Senate Bill 763 in an earlier interview with The Christian Post.

“Many kids are walking through difficult moments and if having more chaplains and counselors available can help, I think that should be beneficial," he said. 

Ian M. Giatti is a reporter for The Christian Post and the author of BACKWARDS DAD: a children's book for grownups. He can be reached at:

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Most Popular

More Articles