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Bill to put chaplains in schools derailed – but language added to religious instruction measure

A woman wearing a tan blazer stands behind and podium and speaks into a microphone in the Senate.
Screenshot of iga.in.gov
Sen. Stacey Donato (R-Logansport) is the author of Senate Bill 50. She said it could help with the statewide school counselor shortage.

A proposal to put chaplains in public schools could be derailed in the final weeks of the legislative session. However, a Senate committee voted this week to add the bill's language into a different measure – giving it another opportunity to make it into law.

Senate Bill 50 aims to address Indiana’s school counselor shortage. It allows schools to hire chaplains to serve students in a secular capacity. Chaplains could also provide religious guidance to students, but only if they receive permission from a student’s parents unless the student is older than 18 or is an emancipated minor.

The bill passed the Senate, but is not currently scheduled to be heard in the House. Senate bills must be passed by the House by March 4 to become law.

READ MORE: Academic exemptions struck from proposal for religious education during school

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The bill’s author, Sen. Stacey Donato (R-Logansport), said many chaplains would likely serve as unpaid volunteers.

Critics of the bill say chaplains are not trained as school counselors and do not have the proper experience to fill that role.

The Senate Education and Career Development Committee committee voted this week to add the SB 50's language into House Bill 1137. That bill that requires schools to release students for religious education for up to two hours per week.

HB 1137 is currently scheduled to be heard by the full Senate on Monday.

Kirsten is our education reporter. Contact her at kadair@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.

Kirsten the Indiana Public Broadcasting education reporter. Contact her at kadair@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.