Seventh- and eighth-graders must take class; it’s optional for high school students

North Butler Community Schools and Clarksville Community Schools in Iowa are introducing classes in firearms safety for 7th and 8th graders starting this spring.

What will they learn?

Butler County Conservation will be teaching a mandatory course in hunter safety through the physical education curriculum, the website Radio Iowa reported. High school students in grades 9-12 will also be able to receive the training, but it is not mandatory.

Joel Foster, superintendent of North Butler Community Schools and Clarksville Community Schools, told Radio Iowa that the course was designed for the safety of students and staff.

“What we do best is educate our kids,” he said. “We feel if we educate our kids in how to use weapons responsibly, how to respect them, understand it’s not a video game and those sort of things, that maybe we’ll cut down on our chances of having a severe incident.”

Foster told the news outlet that he knows not every student will become a hunter. But he wants to expose all students to firearm safety, a skill they can use for hunting or protection.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Foster told the radio station. “If my 12-year-old girl is out babysitting a 3-year-old and the 3-year-old walks out of mom and dad’s bedroom with a handgun or a shotgun, she needs to know how to handle that. That’s one of the scenarios we don’t really think about. It’s better to be proactive than reactive and this is the best way we could think of to be proactive with things.”

Can parents override it?

Parents who oppose the course can sign a form to opt-out their child.

Operable firearms and live ammunition will not be used during the course, the report stated.

The Center for Injury and Research Prevention notes that most unintentional shooting deaths (about 89 percent) happen in the home. Many occur when children are playing with a loaded gun while their parents are not home.

The Clarksville Community School District is located in Clarksville and North Butler Community Schools is headquartered in Allison. Both are located in the northern portion of Iowa.

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