PCHS gives students an early shot at criminal justice careers




As classes started almost two weeks ago, students at PCHS got back into their normal academic routines learning math, English, science and history. This semester, 78 of those students enrolled to learn about the criminal justice system, from investigating crime scenes all the way to trying the perpetrators in court.

For most high school students aspiring for a career as a police officer, public defender, or crime scene investigator, the opportunity to start learning usually has to wait until college. Starting this year, Pulaski County High School is giving students who wish to pursue that career field an early head start with a newly implemented Criminal Justice program, as part of the high school’s Career and Technical Education department.

“I think it gives them an opportunity to really see what law enforcement is about,” said Derick Burton, the program’s instructor.

Burton, a deputy with the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, started as the high school’s resource officer last year, and also has experience teaching at the New River Criminal Justice Training Academy (NRCJTA). This is the first time he’s ever taught this subject matter in a high school setting, however.

“We try to incorporate more than just law enforcement, we incorporate the criminal justice system as a whole,” Burton said.

That includes everything else beyond law enforcement, such as the everyday duties of commonwealth attorneys, defense attorneys, and the roles of judges and magistrates.

Currently, the only class being taught in the program is Criminal Justice I, which serves as an introductory course and prerequisite. A Forensic Technology class will be offered next semester as part of the program, which will focus more on crime scene investigations.

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