Schools fear for chaplains
BUNDABERG schools have expressed their concerns about the future of their chaplaincy programs following a ruling by the High Court that Commonwealth funding them in state schools was unconstitutional.
The ruling upheld an appeal by Toowoomba dad Ron Williams and said there was no clear separation of church and state in the current funding program.
Bargara State School students have access to school chaplain Tanya McKee two days a week.
Acting principal Michelle Pole said Miss McKee - or "Chappy" as she is known to the students - had a positive influence in the kids' lives.
"She's fantastic," she said.
"We're only a small state school and obviously we wouldn't be able to afford a chaplain without funding.
"We'd hate to be losing Chappy."
Thabeban State School principal Ken Peacock said the government funding covered having a chaplain at the school for two days a week, and the school employed the chaplain for an extra day.
"He is very much there for all students, parents and staff," he said.
Mr Peacock said parents were surveyed last year and majority had expressed their support of the school's chaplain, Steve.
"That was a resounding vote of confidence in him," he said.
"I don't understand it to be the end, but I think we need to find out what's going to happen."
Federal Member for Hinkler Paul Neville said it was still early days.
"We have to see if there are any alternatives to fund chaplaincy," he said.
"So we shouldn't be panicking - there will need to be a fair degree of research done."
Mr Neville said it would be a "tragedy" to lose chaplaincy programs.
"With so many dysfunctional kids in this country ... I think the chaplains play a very important social, as well as religious, role in the schools," he said.