South Dakota, Iowa add firearm safety courses to middle school curriculum

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Two rural Iowa school districts are planning to offer firearms safety courses for middle school students this spring.

Clarksville and North Butler School in Greene will offer them for about a week as part of the physical education curriculum.

Hunter safety courses have been offered after school or on the weekends, but this is changing, and not just in Iowa.

Four South Dakota schools now offer them during the school day.

“A lot of kids now a days think that guns are something in video games and they need to know that there is a difference between a video game and reality,” Clarksville and North Butler School District Superintendent Joel Foster said.

Foster said the schools will start offering hunter safety courses during the school day in 2019.

“We've done everything that we can, as far as facilities, as far as locking doors, push button systems, cameras all over the place and we just wanted to do everything that we can,” Foster said. “We felt that this was the next step, to educate our kids.”

Showing those 12 years and up how to safely operate a firearm isn't new to South Dakota.

“It started in the smaller communities where kids would go to the hunter safety course anyways and said they brought the hunter safety course -- so all the students in the school would go through the course,” Game, Fish, and Parks Hut Safe Coordinator Patrick Klotzbach said.

During the course, no real guns are brought into the school.

“Students will learn about safe gun handling on computer programs that teach them how to do it,” Klotzbach said. “We have manuals, but if they want to actually do the hands on with the guns they have to do that outside of school.”

Parents KSFY spoke with have mixed feelings about their 12-year-old kids being around guns.

“I think it’s better to educate at a younger age if for no other reason than to show them that they need to treat weapons with respect and just how dangerous they can be,” Cody Boyum said.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea at all because right now, I mean there are school shootings all over the place,” Melisa Nichols said. “So here in Sioux Falls, I don’t think it’s a good idea. I wouldn’t want my son to be involved in it.”

Foster said while he understands some may have reservations, he said they're doing it for the safety of their kids.

“We think we are doing the right thing for our community,” Foster said. “I’m struggling with the fact that it’s kind of become so political because there’s nothing political about it. We're trying to teach our kids the right thing and how to be safe.”

Right now, New Underwood, Hitchcock-Tulare, Douglas, and Presho offer the hunter safety courses during the school day.

Foster said parents will be able to opt out of the course for their kids.