INDIANAPOLIS—Senate Democratic Leader Shelli Yoder (D-Bloomington) introduced three amendments to Senate Bill 50, a proposal allowing chaplains with two years of undefined “counseling experience” to serve as counselors to students in K-12 schools.
The first amendment would have changed the word ‘children’ to ‘emancipated minor’ or ‘adult’ to protect children without parental consent from exposure to non-secular guidance by religious figures. The second amendment would have addressed the lack of clarity around the type of instruction chaplains provide and would have required chaplains to be religiously neutral when providing guidance to students. The final amendment would have required chaplains to be mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect—a requirement mandatory for actual counselors.
All three amendments were voted down along party lines.
“SB 50 is a problematic bill on the whole. As it stands, it permits religious formation without parental consent or notification, and it allows schools to hire unqualified religious figures to “counsel” students. Worse: there are no real guardrails to ensure the safety, religious freedom or well-being of our students. My amendments attempted to address some of those glaring issues and would have made sure our students were protected, religious freedom was respected, and parental rights were prioritized. My Republican colleagues rejected every one of those safety measures for Hoosier children, including one to ensure chaplains were required to report sexual abuse and neglect. I’m thankful that Sen. Donato expressed support for adding that critical piece to the bill later, and I will be advocating to make sure this one level of protection is available to our kids. This bill is already concerning without that gross oversight also going unaddressed.
“Our kids deserve a real solution to the counselor shortage. This anti-religious-freedom bill violates parental rights, is a complete one-eighty to all the talk about protecting parental rights just last year, and exposes our students to potential harm.”