APC Board Statement on School Chaplain Legislation

We, at the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) and the Board of Chaplaincy Certification, Inc. (BCCI), are concerned about recently proposed legislation allowing public schools to employ “chaplains” who have not earned the appropriate education, training, and experience that professional, board certified chaplains have.

Provided that a chaplain has the appropriate education, training, and experience needed to serve in the position, APC and BCCI support and promote the employment of professional chaplains across all types of settings, including those outside of healthcare. However, APC is concerned that the proposed legislation does not require the “chaplain” to have the proper professional credentials to serve in such sensitive environments like the public school system. Those who work in education, especially public primary schools, are typically required by most states to have extensive education, supervised work experience, and state issued licenses, in order to serve these institutions. 

Chaplains serving schools, particularly public education where they will encounter vulnerable children with diverse faiths and backgrounds, should be scrutinized with requirements similar to teachers, social workers, and school counselors. While states may not license chaplains like teachers, there are other ways to ensure a chaplain has been appropriately prepared to work in a primary education setting. In our evaluation, a short online training course is insufficient for what is needed to serve as a professional chaplain. 

Members and certified chaplains with APC/BCCI are required to adhere to the association’s established Standards of Practice and Ethical Standards as part of their membership and/or certification status. Chaplains certified with BCCI have master’s degrees in areas such as theology, philosophy, and psychology, to name a few. Our certified chaplains have completed multiple units of clinical pastoral education, working with vulnerable populations and their families. They also must be endorsed by a recognized faith group and have already completed over 2,000 hours of supervised work experience. These are just some of the standards that should be considered when drafting regulations for chaplains serving in a public primary school environment. Our rigorous, professional standards have been enacted to help ensure that care recipients receive the appropriate spiritual care, whatever setting they are in.

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