After a Wyoming middle school posted a photo of their new physical education lesson, some parents erupted in outrage. The district has removed the photo, but the course has since skyrocketed in popularity.
When students attend gym class, parents expect that their children will play games, stay active, and learn the basics of physical education. However, for Hot Springs County School District, a certain sporting event the children are learning has garnered fury from some but praise from others.
The school district faced a backlash on social media after posting pictures of fifth- and sixth-grade students learning firearm safety. The photos captured the preteens lying prone on floor mats while using air rifles to complete a round of target practice in the gym.
The Idaho Statemen reports that the school district posted the pictures to highlight the program, explaining that every student had been properly trained in firearm safety in order to handle the airsoft guns. The students were shown aiming across the basketball court at a row of wooden targets.
“All students passed their safety test and have been sharpening their skills,” the post said.
Within hours, the photos went viral. While most of the nearly 6,000 comments were positive, the post was soon inundated with increasingly negative comments.
“America is a dystopian hellhole,” a commenter said.
“Do they go straight from their gun marksmanship training to their active shooter drills?” asked another.
Eventually, the district removed the post. Additionally, district superintendent Dustin Hunt and board chairman Sherman Skelton released a statement defending the 3-week course.
“One of the many beauties of public education is that locally elected school boards help shape curriculum to match community norms and needs,” the statement read. “In Wyoming, the vast majority of households have firearms. It is important for students to safely learn about and respect things they will encounter in their everyday lives.”
The district explained that no students were forced to take part in the course. In fact, if any family had a problem with the lesson, they would be offered an alternative class.
“To date, no students have requested an alternate unit or assignment,” the statement said.
In an effort to combat the negative attention the course has received, a Facebook page called “Deer Blings and Fishing Lines” reposted the photos and praised the students for learning to safely and effectively use firearms. Since then, the responses have been overwhelmingly positive.
“Although I’m from Canada I believe this should be a mandatory course in all schools. Not just firearms but also survival and wildlife food preparation. We’ve lost touch with a very important part of our society and culture,” one user wrote.
“Best idea ever! Growing up in Wisconsin this was a class offered at the school my husband went to. Learning proper gun safety & attitudes is essential!” another user wrote.
“Bring it back to the schools that will allow it . It’s a tool just like a hammer or a drill,” another commented.
Despite the backlash, the Hot Springs County School District said it had no plans to do away with the firearm safety course. In fact, such training appears to have grown in popularity even in states with strict gun laws.
Supporters argue that the students who have participated in the lessons will certainly have more respect for the proper handling of firearms and their appropriate usage. They also believe that the fear and naivety that they might have had before their training would be more of a danger to them and others than their acquired skill.
With firearms here to stay, instilling deep respect and knowledge in children is arguably the first step to keeping them safe when it comes to these powerful tools. Just as we train them to properly drive a car so that they don’t endanger themselves and others, we shouldn’t shy away from teaching them the acceptable uses for firearms, should their parents agree. And, it would seem, Hot Springs County School District handled the situation beautifully, giving their students and their families a choice.