Highland Resource Officer Steve Chism will be teaching the classes to students grades nine through twelve. Chism explained that he wrote a grant to help defray equipment and special costs associated with the program. Although the school has been given permission to begin the program, it will not receive the funding until next fall. The $40,000 in grant funds will reimburse the district for any expenditures on the Criminal Justice Program. "I am very excited about the response to this new program that is similar in nature to the agriculture programs through the Career Education Program, with hands on activities towards a career field," Chism said.
Chism, who previously taught similar courses in Independence County, said the classes were a result of a survey taken during the 2011-2012 school year of 325 students. The survey generated a 52 percent positive interest return.
The course will incorporate classroom learning with hands on experience in such areas as finger printing, crime scene processing and report writing. Chism said the classes will be similar to training at the police academy.
Additionally, students will get to work on electronic dispatch equipment, such as radios and consoles. They will also tour correctional facilities or jails, go to a court session and check other activities in the criminal justice field. Chism said he will also have guest speakers with experience in various law enforcement careers.
After completing the program, which will consist of Introduction during the first year, followed by Law Enforcement One the following year, students will receive certificates that will transfer to institutions of higher education toward a degree in criminal justice. Others may go directly into law enforcement fields, or dispatch jobs after high school.
Besides teaching the daily criminal justice curriculum, Chism's job also entails being a positive role model, and teaching younger children about the importance of obstaining from drug use.
Through such positive programs as "Be a Winner" and "Smart Choices, Better Chances," Chism hopes to implant a deeper understanding of the consequences of drug use in students in the district, as well as making them aware of the importance of accountability for their actions, and how their actions can follow them through their lives.
The "Be a Winner" program is a six week drug resistance education program geared to fifth graders. It teaches important life skills, and also deals with self esteem issues, peer pressure, media pressure, and how to trust and be assertive. These are all things that are vital in later teen years to build a child's mental capacity to deal with issues that may eventually lead to the choice of drug use or resistance. By teaching children methods to overcome these daily obstacles, it is the goal of the program to allow children to grow with an increased mental awareness of the issues, and be provided positive ways to deal with them.
"Smart Choices, Better Chances, You and the Law," is a continuance of the fifth grade program for students in sixth and seventh grade. These students are given a test at the start of the class, to determine the students' knowledge and understanding of the law. The course focuses more on accountability for actions, and defining various crimes as opposed to specific drug resistance education.
Chism said he defines various crimes during the six week course, and explains consequences of the crimes, and how they relate to every aspect of a student's life. After completing the course, students are given a post-test. This, Chism said, is to give him an accurate representation of his teaching methods and whether or not the students understood the content, providing feedback for future classes.
By reaching students at an early age through these programs, it is Chism's hope that he can change the decisions students make later in their teen years, and be a positive role model for some who may not have that stable force in their lives.