Parents are concerned that a long-standing summer trip for students in the FFA chapter at Buffalo Creek Middle School is in jeopardy this year because of the use of firearms.
The FFA chapter has attended the Florida Outdoor Adventures camp for the past five years or so, according to parents, with no prior objections from the Manatee County School District. The camp is a four-day exploration into nature, sporting events, wildlife management, firearms safety and hunter safety certification, challenge courses and leadership development, according to organizers.
The hunter safety course is not new, but that’s the reason parents have been given this year as to why the students are not allowed to go.
On Monday morning, an email was sent to the Buffalo Creek FFA adviser by Kelli Kennedy, a curriculum specialist for the school district, saying that the students cannot attend the trip.
“After careful consideration of the use of firearms at this camp, it has been decided that we cannot allow students to attend this activity,” the email read.
Heather Cannon, the parent of a seventh-grader at Buffalo Creek who was planning to attend the conference, said she’s disappointed her daughter will miss out on the opportunity to get her hunting license, and to take advantage of the other lessons taught at the event.
“Because we hunt, the sooner they can get some safety training, the better. I’m disappointed with it,” she said. “If you want to go, this is the perfect opportunity to get your hunting license. It’s important for us and our family.”
Cannon said her family is a hunting family, so it’s important her daughter has a license by the time she is 16, which is state law.
Cannon had already paid a $50 down payment, and the total cost of the camp is between $200 and $250, she said. Cannon was told she’d be reimbursed the money she had already sent.
On Monday, when asked about the issue by the Bradenton Herald, the district said there are “further discussion to be had on the topic.”
“I’ve just been made aware of the issue and we’re looking into it,” spokesman Mike Barber said.
The program has been up and running with a firearm safety course for the last 18 years, said Florida FFA Foundation executive director Gary Bartley. The course includes pistols, rifles, shotguns and archery. About four years ago, they added a couple additional components to allow students to earn their hunter safety certification through the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission at the same time.
“We practice safety in every respect,” Bartley said. “Everything is above board.”
Bartley said he’s never heard complaints about the course.