A Wyoming school district recently trained fifth and sixth graders in basic marksmanship, turning their school gymnasium into a shooting range for the PE lesson.
Hot Springs County School District #1 in Thermopolis, Wyoming, posted on Facebook photos of the marksmanship class showing young students aiming aim air rifles at a target propped up against bleachers in their school gym.
While the school took down the original post because some people found it “offensive,” the YouTube channel “Deer Blinds and Fishing Lines” — which aims to teach others about hunting and fishing — shared the photos on their own Facebook page.
“Hot Springs County School District #1 is definitely doing it right! The more kids who learn firearm safety the better! Less accidents happen with proper teaching!” the post stated. “Mr. Deromedi’s 5/6th PE classes are working on their marksmanship with air rifles! All students passed their safety test and have been sharpening their skills. #307Bobcats.”
According to the Idaho Statesman, the original post said every student “passed their safety test” and that each student has “been sharpening their skills.”
Superintendent Dustin Hunt and board chairman Sherman Skelton said that while they regret offending anyone with the post, the three-week air rifle course makes sense for the students of Hot Springs County School District.
“One of the many beauties of public education is that locally elected school boards help shape curriculum to match community norms and needs,” the pair said in a statement to McClatchy News. “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 statement noted that students are not required to participate in the marksmanship lessons, and an “alternative assignment” is available.
“To date, no students have requested an alternate unit or assignment,” the statement added.
The class comes as the number of high school shooting teams grows nationwide. According to TIME, participation in extracurricular shooting squads has skyrocketed over the last several years.
In 2015, 9,245 students, in 317 schools in three states, participated in the USA High School Clay Target League. Participation has since spiked 137 percent, with 21,917 students, from 804 teams in 20 states — including New York and California — competing in 2018.
“It took me out of my bubble,” former high school shooting team member, 19-year-old Sydney Gilbertson, told TIME. “I owe my confidence to trap. It’s the best thing I did in high school. If this were taken away from kids … I don’t know what I would have done.”