High school parents don't want their teens on armed campuses

Alan Miller is the parent of a DeKalb County high school student who plans to attend college classes in the fall as part of Georgia's Move On When Ready program.

In this column, Miller says the possibility of guns on campus is making him rethink allowing his son to take college classes next year.

The General Assembly passed House Bill 859, which legalizes guns in Georgia college classrooms. Gov. Nathan Deal has expressed reservations about the bill, citing two groups -- dual enrolled high school students in college classes and babies and toddlers in campus child care centers.

By Alan Miller

I am a proud parent ready to take advantage of Georgia’s acclaimed Move On When Ready program, but I, like many other parents, am suffering serious misgivings about doing so when I realize my high school child will be around students who may be carrying guns on campus.

I need Gov. Nathan Deal to veto House Bill 859 for me to feel comfortable using Move On When Ready.

HB 859 would force colleges to allow guns on campus. Yes, adding guns to the mix would be dangerous for students who too often abuse alcohol and drugs, and experience significant academic stress and anxiety. And, yes, students carrying guns in class would create all types of problems for faculty who would have to think twice about introducing thought-provoking, but controversial, discussions and debate. At least one faculty member at Georgia State University has, in fact, said he will retire as a result.  And, in Texas, where a similar bill passed last year, they are already losing star professors.

But what about another group who would be put at risk?  The dual enrolled high school students who take advantage of Georgia’s terrific Move On When Ready program that Gov. Deal has rightfully championed. This fantastic program is used by almost 8,000 students across Georgia.

My son is a junior at Dunwoody High School in DeKalb County. He has worked hard and had much success in high school and may now have the opportunity to join the dual enrollment program for next fall at GSU's Dunwoody campus. This is a program where local high school students choose to study at the college level.

His first period will be in a GSU Dunwoody campus English class and then the rest of his day will be spent at Dunwoody High School as a regular high school student. I’m so proud of all the hard work my son has done to get this far. And I’m thankful Georgia has a program like this that will let him get a taste of college before he enrolls full-time. But I’m outraged at the thought of guns being allowed in his classes. Polling shows 78 percent of Georgians agree with me that guns have no place on our college campuses.

Gov. Deal seems to agree with me that dual enrolled students shouldn’t be anywhere near classrooms with guns. After HB 859 passed the Legislature, the Governor’s Office released a statement that said, “[Governor Deal] believes legitimate points have been made in regards to certain aspects of the ‘campus carry’ bill and he calls on the General Assembly to address these concerns in related legislation before [the Legislature adjourns]. Specifically, these areas of concern include dual enrolled K-12 students who leave school to attend classes at a university or technical college campus, as well as daycare centers on these same campuses.”

The governor is right to have concerns. As a parent of a potential dual enrollment student, I share them. If he signs HB 859 into law, it would potentially put everyone on campus at risk. Not just college students and educators, but also dual enrolled high school kids and children at daycare.

If Gov. Deal is true to his word that allowing guns in daycare centers and around dual enrolled students is concerning, his only course of action is to veto the bill.

It’s not hard to envision scenarios that could play out if HB 859 becomes law.  Routine arguments could escalate and turn deadly. The stress and academic anxiety that so many students face would become an even worse problem when a gun is right there to pick up and fire.

I’m speaking out not just as a Georgian, but as a father of a soon-to-be college-aged kid. Before I send him off to the Dunwoody campus next year, I need to know he’s entering a safe environment. And the year after — when he will decide where to enroll in college for four years — the presence of guns on campus will certainly play a role.

I have talked to other Georgia parents now considering passing up the Move On When Ready opportunity and sending their child out-of-state to a safer campus for college. I urge our governor to veto this dangerous bill.

HB 859 is a bad deal for Georgia.

About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.