Florida Law Allows Chaplains in Public Schools

(HorizonPost.com) – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis last week signed into law a measure that would allow school districts to offer volunteer chaplain services to students, despite objections from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

In a signing ceremony at an Osceola County high school last Thursday, the governor said the legislation would bolder existing mental health resources to help struggling Florida students.

DeSantis said the measure would restore “the sense of purpose” the founders intended for education which he said the country has “veered away from” over the years.

According to a news release from the governor’s office, the law authorizes public school districts and charter schools in the state to allow volunteer chaplains at schools to provide additional support and counseling to students.

The chaplains would be approved by the school board or charter governing board and students seeking counseling from the volunteer chaplains must first obtain written consent from a parent or guardian.

School districts or charter schools that participate in the volunteer chaplain program would be required to publish the list of approved volunteer chaplains on their websites, including each chaplain’s religious affiliation. The parents can then choose a chaplain from the list provided.

In a March statement, the ACLU voiced its opposition to the legislation, arguing that allowing chaplains in public schools violated the separation of church and state.

The group alleged that because chaplains do not receive specific training on counseling youth and are not certified to do so, the students would “receive inadequate mental health support” that could be “harmful.”

The governor said at last Thursday’s signing ceremony that he expected the law to face a challenge in court.

DeSantis suggested that the ACLU’s position was that discrimination against “religious organizations” is okay. He noted that the program would be “purely voluntary” and parents would have to give consent for their child to “receive services” from a school chaplain. DeSantis insisted that the program would not impose anything on anyone who did not want to use the services.

The law is set to take effect in July.

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