NewsLocal NewsIn Your NeighborhoodLincoln


Bill wants to allow schools to hire chaplains in place of school counselors

Posted at 4:31 PM, Feb 27, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-27 17:31:18-05

LINCOLN — School can be really hard for some students.

Whether its struggles in the classroom or difficulties at home kids face a number of obstacles to their academic success, and when those students start to struggle school counselors are there to get them back on track.

"Gone are the days where school counselors show up, sit in their office and wait for something to come in the door. School counselors now are very proactive," said Doug Houseman, a practicing school counselor and Executive Director for the Nebraska School Counseling Association.

Doug Hauserman is a career educator and has worked as a school counselor for the last 20 years.

He is one of 880 school counselors in Nebraska, a position that requires a Master's Degree and certification from the Board of Education.

But a new bill is looking to bolster the number of counselors by letting clergy take their place.

"Chaplains are entrusted with our firefighters and law enforcement I think they can be of use to our schools," said Lippincott when introducing the bill.

Lippincots bill, LB1065, would let schools hire chaplain's in place of counselors.

Getting clergy into schools has been a recent fad among conservative lawmakers nationwide.

In 2023 Texas passed a law allowing schools to replace counselors with chaplains and lawmakers in Georgia, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Utah have introduced similar legislation.

But Hauserman is concerned that those uncertified chaplain's won't have the skills needed to address the complex issues that many students face, whether it be mental health struggles or navigating school as an LGBTQ+ student.

"Chaplain's are not trained to do those things but a school counselor is trained to do those things. We can build that relationship and know we are creating that safe space and welcoming space that makes students want to come and discuss challenging topics," said Hauserman.

Lippincott argues that the measure is needed to help increase the amount of school counselors.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics Nebraska ranks 24th in the nation for its student to counselor ratio, with roughly 369 students per counselor.

But Hauserman says he expects that number to drop because of recent changes in the degree program allowing for fewer teaching hours and more academic coursework.

He worries this bill is solving a problem that already has solutions while putting students at risk.

"I truly fear that students will be damaged and hurt. I know that chaplains and lots of other people have no desire to hurt students, they would never do it intentionally. But I know the training that school counselors need is unique and any person can't just step in and do that," said Hauserman.