School chaplain bill survives Democratic amendments in House

Bible
Bipartisan sponsorship didn't preclude attempts to change this legislation.

Legislation that could put religious figures in your child’s classroom is one step closer to becoming law after a floor session in the House, surviving attempts to change the bill from a group of Democrats.

HB 931 would “authorize volunteer school chaplains to provide support, services, and programs to students as assigned by the district school board or charter school governing board” with parental consent for the counseling. School Boards would have until the end of the year to decide what their policy might be on this issue.

The bill’s bipartisan sponsorship from Republican Rep. Stan McClain and Democratic Rep. Kim Daniels did not mean it had unanimous backing as written, however.

Democratic Rep. Robin Bartleman likened the irony of giving school boards carte blanche to the “Twilight Zone,” given how in other contexts, like LGBTQ issues, Tallahassee has been eager to strip their power.

Democrats also sought to change the bill with seven amendments, to no avail.

Rep. Anna Eskamani wanted chaplains to undergo “sexual harassment and assault prevention training.”

This led to commentary from Daniels.

“I’m sitting here listening to all the negativity about ministers and ministry,” Daniels said, saying there was no reason to talk about preachers like they’re “sexual predators.”

Rep. Angie Nixon, who actually defeated Daniels in a 2020 Primary, had numerous amendments to her one-time opponent’s bill, to no avail.

One was to “require student consent” before being chaplained because “the chaplain may be trying to groom the student.”

The Jacksonville Democrat mentioned “children in the church, the Catholic Church, that get groomed” and said her worry was a move that would “open that up to public schools.”

Another Nixon amendment that wouldn’t have allowed preachers from “fly-by-night” denominations also failed.

Sponsor McClain did offer one amendment that made the bill: “Any school district or charter school that adopts a volunteer school chaplains policy must publish the list of volunteer school chaplains, including any religious affiliation, on the school district or charter school’s website.”

Meanwhile, similar legislation (SB 1044) is moving in the Senate. The Sen. Erin Grall version of the bill advanced through a committee this week.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


3 comments

  • PeterH

    February 21, 2024 at 4:30 pm

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    • MH/Duuuval

      February 21, 2024 at 5:29 pm

      Ms. Angie is on to something with her concerns about fly-by-night reverends. Presumably the chaplains will undergo fingerprinting, etc.

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Comments are closed.


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