High School Staff Get Lessons in Criminal Justice

Teachers tour Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility

High School criminal justice teachers tour the Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility

High School criminal justice teachers from across Texas got lessons on new trends in the field, including the areas of DNA, cyber-crime, forensics, terrorism, crime in the media and data analysis.

During a two-day training conference offered by Sam Houston State University’s College of Criminal Justice, about 50 teachers met with faculty and staff from Sam Houston State University, The Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Institute of Texas and the Conroe Police Department to learn about some of the latest teaching tools and topics available in criminal justice. The program culminated with educators sharing lesson plans used in the classroom.

"This helps us to have a seamless transition between what we teach and what they are teaching in college," said Coleen Young, a criminal justice teacher at Kennedy High School in San Antonio. "It gives us guidance on the topics that kids need to know."

Young, who has six students from her program enrolled in the College of Criminal Justice, said she is impressed by the cutting edge research that is going on at the university.

Dr. David Gangitano, assistant professor in Forensic Science, encouraged teachers to instill a love of science in their students. He presented a workshop on DNA, including the history of the technology and the steps in the process to use DNA in criminal justice. He also discussed research at the university to develop DNA profiles of pollen for use in criminal investigations as well as using DNA markers to identify the color of eyes, hair and skin of suspects.

"There is a great opportunity because if they love to learn science, it is can be used in this case to solve crimes," Gangitano said.

Teachers also were provided an overview of the Institute for the Study of Violent Groups, a program at SHSU that collects open source data on terrorist groups worldwide. Dr. Vesna Markovic, principal investigator for the program, presented information on suicide bombers, including the history of the practice, profiles and motivation for individuals and groups, as well as trends and threats.

Deputy Chief Michael Hanson of the Conroe Police Department outlined some of the new technology being used by law enforcement. Among these are laptops and SMART phones; tasers, radars and surveillance equipment; training techniques and opportunities; record management systems; and cameras.

Dr. Matt Nobles, assistant professor at the College of Criminal Justice, outlined some of the latest developments in cyber crime and offered many sites teachers could use for lesson plans. The presentation discussed security, safety and ethics on the Internet and dealt with such topics as social media, shopping, gaming, file sharing and network protection.

Since we are talking about cyber-crime, the challenge is in keeping current," Nobles said.

Dr. Leana Bouffard, an associate professor at the College, introduced data collection and ways it could be incorporated into the classroom. Bouffard demonstrated statistics available on such sites as the Death Penalty Information Center and the Uniform Crime Reports and how they could be used to illustrate quantity, change and relationship in crime data. She encouraged teachers to use designated events, such as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Cyber-Crime Awareness Month or National Drug Fact Week, to generate research opportunities and to use local data to peak student interest.

Dr. Melissa Tackett-Gibson, another assistant professor at the College, showed how different types of media portray crimes, victims, offenders and law enforcement and how they influence public opinion. Among the media discussed were news, info-tainment, entertainment, gaming and social media.

Several members of the university also outlined the process of applying to Sam Houston State University and opportunities available for first year students. Educators also toured Incident Command Simulation Training at LEMIT, a state-of-the art facility that offers special crisis management instruction to national, state and local law enforcement, and the Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility, one of only four sites in the country to study the application of forensic science in crime scene and criminal activities using human bodies.

The program was developed by Dr. Holly Miller, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Studies, and Karen Eads, Administrative Technician at the College of Criminal Justice.

Member of The Texas State University System