The revelation that a chaplain at a prestigious Perth girls school has been charged with possession of child pornography raises questions about the role of chaplains in secondary schools.
The funding for NSCP comes at the expense of more worthwhile and much needed school counseling and mental health services provided by qualified and supervised staff. Rather than address the chronic underfunding of public schools, the Federal Government has thrown nearly $500 million dollars at a program that has dubious benefits and relies on untrained and unsupervised Christian chaplains. Rather than fund and employ tertiary trained youth workers, social workers and psychologists,to support young people, the program employs untrained religious workers.
Serious questions have been raised by many groups, including parent groups, about the fact that this program provides church groups (some with extreme views) with direct access to young people in public schools and allows them to proselytize and promote religion within public schools. The program operates under a Christian umbrella and has direct links with influential Christian groups who see their role to proselytize and promote their religious beliefs. Even though public schools require Chaplains to work in secular ways, the Christian agenda dominates.
This concern has led to a High Court challenge to the program, on the basis that it creates a non-secular, pro-Christian culture in public schools
Another concern is that chaplain's lack the capacity to assist students with matters that contradict the chaplain and the church's moral stance, such as homosexuality, contraception and sexual behavior.
The APS documents a series of concerns including:
- Chaplains are operating as unregistered and unqualified quasi-counsellors and mental health workers
- Chaplains are engaged in activities for which they are not qualified
- Chaplains are proselytizing on religious and spiritual matters
- Chaplains are providing mental health related counseling services, although they lack the qualifications and expertise
- Chaplains are failing to refer young people to appropriate services
- Chaplains are working outside their boundaries and guidelines as spiritual and religious personnel and Church organizations and ministries are supporting them to do so.
- The Chaplains program is not consistent with the evidence base about what is in the best interests of young people.
".. the risks to both students and schools are immense and will ultimately result in significant costs both financial and human"