As the City of Knoxville builds a $57 million Public Safety Complex in North Knoxville, the facility is expected to provide hands-on learning opportunities for students in a new criminal justice program at Fulton High School.
The program is led by teacher Caleb Andrist, a former law enforcement officer with agencies including the Brentwood Police Department. Three courses are currently offered:
- Level 1, an introductory course that focuses on policing, the courts and corrections;
- Level 2, a hands-on course that covers topics including handcuffing, traffic stops and vehicle searches; and
- Level 3, a forensic science course.
Eventually, students who complete all three courses will be able to enroll in a work-based learning course in partnership with the Knoxville Police Department, which will move its headquarters to the new Public Safety Complex when construction is finished.
- “When you’re talking about any high school anywhere in America, getting kids to a work-based learning opportunity in criminal justice is going to be difficult,” said Jonathan Egert, principal of the Skilled Professions Small Learning Community at Fulton. “For us, it’s a crossing of the street when that KPD office is open.”
On a recent afternoon, Andrist walked students through the basics of using handcuffs in an arrest situation, then gave pointers as they took turns practicing.
And while issues related to policing can be challenging, Andrist said in an interview that he doesn’t shy away from “the hard stuff”, and that approach builds trust within the classroom.
- “If there’s a bad situation in police work we will absolutely talk about that, just as much as we’ll talk about the good stuff. And the kids see that and they know that, and that’s where that trust comes from.”
The approach appears to be paying dividends. Egert said there is a buzz around the program among students, who are seeing a different side of policing than they get on social media.
Alayna Roberson, a Fulton senior who is hoping to study criminology, said Andrist has a way of making the material interesting, and that she has enjoyed the class a lot.
“It made me want to know why people do what they do.”