Classes with Minors and Guns

Community colleges have until August to implement the 2015 law allowing licensed carriers of concealed handguns to bring their weapons into campus buildings. Public universities have complied already—with abundant controversy, as reported here often. Private schools are exempt from the statute and may do as they wish.

TCCTA has asked consistently that local colleges be allowed to decide this issue for themselves, but it is unlikely such a change will occur during this Regular Session of the Legislature.

One matter of particular interest to two-year schools concerns the large number of minors who attend our classes, especially given the dramatic surge in dual credit offerings in recent years. Guns remain banned from the public schools and colleges are allowed to create gun-free zones under the law, so can they extend a prohibition to classrooms with minors?

The answer, apparently, is no, according to a report by Matthew Watkins, in the Texas Tribune. The same applies at this point to faculty offices, the article states. You can read the piece for details and local examples.

Here is a key passage:

But the number of kids on community college campuses has grown in recent years as the state emphasizes dual-credit classes, which count toward both high school and college degrees. The state still bans guns in high schools, so would that mean that community colleges could ban guns in classes with high school students?

Schools seem to be concluding that the answer is no. They cite a legal opinion issued by Attorney General Ken Paxton that said schools couldn’t ban guns in all their classes “merely because minors may attend or be present in all classrooms.”

But Paxton’s opinion said the schools are authorized to write reasonable rules that take into account the “nature of the student population.” And bans might be permissible, he wrote, in classrooms “at times where there might be a congregation of minors” or places where childcare services are provided.

Many colleges have taken that to mean that they can ban guns in classes of only high schoolers but not in classes with a few high schoolers and mostly regular students.

“We think the attorney general was pretty clear that those need to be treated like regular classes,” said Joyce Langenegger, director of professional development and member of the campus carry task force at Blinn College, which has campuses in Brenham, Bryan, Schulenburg and Sealy.

Paxton’s opinion is nonbinding, and it doesn’t spell out a specific percentage of high school students that a class must surpass before guns can be banned in it. A college could still opt to test the limits of the law. But so far, none have indicated that they plan to do so.