The North Butler and Clarksville school districts in Iowa are now offering a mandatory gun training/safety class ("Hunters Safety Course") to 7th and 8th grade students and a voluntary class for high schoolers in the evenings.
The classes started this semester and realistic but non-firing guns and replica ammunition are used, not actual guns.
"Please understand that we do not believe that all students will be hunting, nor do we expect them to," said school Superintendent Joel Foster in a blog post about the class. "The expectation is that through this all students will be exposed to firearm safety, and as such learn to respect and how to manage and control firearms."
"Whether it be for hunting purposes, or possibly for a young person to need to know how to handle them -- because a little one they may be babysitting finds a weapon and brings it to them -- everyone may need to know how to responsibly handle a firearm at some point in their life," he said. "We would prefer that they learn it the proper way, and learn to respect firearms and their capabilities though proper training by qualified and well trained individuals who educate others for a living."
Foster's announcement was in December but the classes started this year.
Although the "Hunters Safety Course" is mandatory for 7th and 8th graders, if a parent objects then their child does not have to participate in the class. The class is one-week long.
"While we sincerely hope that all of our parents will allow their students to participate in the hunters safety course, we do also respect the fact that there may be parents who strongly object," said Foster. "With this in mind, a paper will be sent home as the course draws nearer that will allow a parent to opt out if they have a strong objection to their child being involved."
"Understand that no operable firearms will be present during the course nor will there be live ammunition present," he added.
In the class, students "will learn how to load and unload ammunition and hold and care for firearms," Foster told the Des Moines Register. "They'll also learn how to safely carry a gun and how to recognize when a firearm is loaded."
"We know not all kids are going to hunt," said Foster. "This is an alternative to sitting on your hands and not doing anything. It's being proactive to handle things in the best manner as possible if something occurs. Through education, kids know guns aren't toys."