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THS criminal justice students get a glance at what a real job in law enforcement looks like by using dental stone to create casts of tire tracks and shoe prints. Student Anthony Harden uses a cleaning brush to scrub excess mud off of a shoeprint casting in order to properly compare with it the matching shoe.

Tullahoma High School students enrolled in Criminal Justice I, II and III classes get a firsthand look at what a job in law enforcement looks like. The class is taught by Jason Kennedy, who served as an officer for 18 years at law enforcement agencies in Coffee and Bedford counties. Kennedy also taught classes at the departments before taking on his current position three years ago.

These classes offer more than just lectures on criminology; Kennedy provides projects to encourage his students to get their hands dirty while learning. Students use dental stone to create casts of tire tracks and shoeprints, allowing them to get a feel for how the process is carried out in a real criminal investigation.

After mixing and letting the stone sit for 30 minutes to 24 hours, depending on the size of the print, students then use garden tools to dig the hardened stone out of the ground in order to compare the tracks and shoeprints with the real tire or shoe.

The class has sparked interest in some students to pursue careers in the criminal justice field.

“I have always been interested in it, but this class helped me decide on pursuing a degree in forensic science at University of Tennessee,” said senior Destiny Shelton.

“This class has been great for me because I want to work toward becoming a detective for The New York Police Department after I graduate,” said student Chandler Hunter.

Criminal Justice students also have the opportunity to go on several field trips including tours of The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Coffee County Jail, Coffee County Circuit Court, Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy and Riverbend Maximum Security Institution.

They also have the chance to put their criminology knowledge to the test, competing in SkillsUSA competitions every year, with a THS student bringing home 3rd place in last year’s competition.

The next project for Kennedy’s students this fall will be locating bones from a mock clandestine grave. Parts of a skeleton will be buried in random places and students will attempt to locate all of the bones.

THS will add a criminal justice IV class to its catalog next year. “The additional class will give students an opportunity for a capstone project,” Kennedy said. “With the help of the county court, students will be able to work alongside officers and follow an investigation from start to finish. They will get to read police reports, research the charges and follow any developments that occur. Then, they will prepare a final presentation of what they learned for the class.”

The criminal justice club, sponsored by Kennedy, holds fundraisers by selling T-shirts and hosting bake sales throughout the school year to assist with funding their field trips.

To stay updated about the club’s efforts, follow its Facebook page: “Tullahoma High School’s Criminal Justice Club.”

Katelyn Lawson may be reached at klawson@tullahomanews.com