Florida Implements New Laws for Public School Chaplains and Education

In the 2024 legislative session, contentious education laws were approved, with many taking effect starting Monday. Here is a brief overview of what will change in schools across the Sunshine State in the new fiscal year:

HB 931: Introduction of Volunteer School Chaplains

Contrary to hesitations in other GOP-controlled states, Florida will implement a law permitting volunteer chaplains in schools starting Monday.

Questions have emerged about the chaplains’ qualifications and upholding the separation of church and state.

Volunteer chaplains are mandated to undergo a background check, with no additional qualifications specified. Applicants must disclose their name and religious affiliation for public knowledge.

Speculation arose when the Satanic Temple members expressed interest in participating, causing delays in some states but not Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, at a signing event in April, reassured, “You don’t have to worry” about satanists joining because “that is not a religion. That is not qualified to be able to participate in this.”

Although the group claims IRS recognition as a church, the bill faced criticism for potential religious indoctrination from the ACLU, Interfaith Alliance, and National Education Association.

HB 1291: Ban on Identity Politics in Teacher Preparation Programs

Commencing Monday, teacher preparation curricula in Florida are prohibited from including teachings on “theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the United States’ institutions to maintain social inequalities,” under a new law.

Sponsored by Rep. Berny Jacques, a Pinellas County Republican, the legislation enables the government to cleanse the programs, emphasizing that diversity, equity, inclusion, and critical race theory are deemed irrelevant.

Governor DeSantis supported the shift in teacher preparation, ensuring that a neutral educational environment without ideological bias is maintained.

Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar criticized the law for depriving educators of essential tools and students of crucial life skills.

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