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Florida GOP lawmaker wants to replace school mental health counselors with chaplains

Florida lawmakers are advancing a bill to allow schools to adopt “volunteer school chaplains”. Such chaplains, irrespective of whether they have any training in working with children, could act as substitutes for trained social workers or counselors.

SB 1044 is sponsored by Senate Republican Erin Grall. It follows the adoption of similar legislation in Texas, Utah, and a handful of other states.

Introduced last month, SB 1044 advanced yesterday to the Appropriations Committee on Education stage. Given that Republicans control the Florida Senate and House, many of the GOP-proposed education bills have been adopted.

Florida made headlines in 2022 for the adoption of its widely-criticized ‘Parental Rights In Education’ bill. This was more commonly dubbed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. It forbade the discussion of topics relating to LGBTQ+ in classrooms for lower age groups kids. Last year, it was expanded to include all ages up 12th grade.

Florida has also allowed schools to show students videos from the right-leaning educational organization, PragerU. These are videos aimed at teens on American history and life skills. Some have proved controversial. For example, there’s one encouraging girls to embrace their femininity.

“An alternative to mental health counselors”

SB 1044 does at least require potential chaplains to undergo “certain background screening requirements”. However, it then leaves it up to schools to assign their duties. Sponsor Grall has said she would be happy if this included student counseling.

“I view this as an alternative to mental health counselors. I see this is an alternative for families,” said Grall, reports ReligionNews. Asked if she worried the chaplains might give bad advice, she suggested this is a risk regardless of who spoke to the kids, “What happens when our children receive the wrong advice from a mental health counselor?”

Here’s a fellow State Senator, Danny Burgess (R), speaking out this week in support of Grall’s legislation.

A House version (HB 931) of Grall’s bill is also currently is already up for vote.

Grall previously made headlines for co-sponsoring Florida’s six-week abortion ban last year. She has followed that up this year with proposed new legislation that would cover unborn fetuses under “wrongful death” charges. The legislation could potentially allow the father of a fetus aborted illegally to seek “wrongful death” damages from those responsible.

H/T: The Friendly Atheist

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