Tippah’s first Law and Public Safety class sparks interest

Education stockBy Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

RIPLEY – High school students are being given a chance to explore their interest in law enforcement and public safety professions through a new vocational class offered in schools throughout Mississippi.

The Tippah Career and Technology Center launched its program this year and recruited 24 students for its first year-long class.

“This program hits our area really well and will impact a lot of our students,” said Tony Elliott, director of the center. “It works hand-in-hand with preparation for community college programs.”

The curriculum was tested last year in several school districts, but is now a full-fledged course offering available throughout the state, said Mike Mulvihill, bureau director for career technical education at the Mississippi Department of Education. About 10 to 12 districts are offering the course this year, he said.

Students in the law and public safety class will receive a foundation in law enforcement and emergency services in local communities, as well as the corrections system – how jails and prisons work, fire protection, specialized areas like highway patrol, emergency management and branches of the military.

The district was fortunate to find an instructor for the course, Bill McCain, whose career path is a good match for the program.

“I retired from the Army after 24 years of service, 14 of those years as an MP (military police officer),” McCain said.

After retirement, McCain moved with his wife to her northeast Mississippi hometown, then earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education.

“The kids are looking forward to the fun things like learning how to do searches and use handcuffs, but we start off with the basics of professionalism, ethics, integrity and morals,” McCain said.

Learning by doing

A big component of the program is learning by doing, and McCain said having the program at the career and technology center allows him to collaborate with instructors in other areas who can help create the scenarios his students need for those experiences.

“The auto shop has vehicles they work on, so we can use those to practice traffic stops, vehicle searches,” McCain said. “Maybe we’ll be able to have a little jail cell built to use for booking procedures. One thing I found out is the other teachers are really willing to help out.”

Some students in this first class were drawn to explore this new option for a variety of reasons.

• Brigg Mason, 15, Ripley High School 10th-grader: “I’m thinking about being a game warden after college.”

• Austin Parks, 15, Ripley High School 10th-grader: “I thought it would be a really fun class, but hadn’t really thought about law enforcement.”

• Tyler Clemmer, 16, Ripley High School 11th-grader: “I’m going into the Marine Corps after I finish school.”

• Trevor Jones, 15, Blue Mountain High School 10th-grader: “I thought it would be an interesting class.”

• Tyler Bryant, 16, Ripley High School 11th-grader: “I want to join the Army.”

• Drew Hodges, 16, Ripley High School 11th-grader: “I just wanted to see what it’s about.”

• Jonathan Simpson, 16, Ripley High School 11th-grader: “I’m thinking about being a paramedic and wanted to see what I had to do, what the training was like.”

• Casey Barkley, 16, Ripley High School 10th-grader: “All my uncles are in the Army and I like shooting guns and things like that.”

Whatever the root of their interest, the ultimate goal of the course is to prepare them to meet the Common Core Standards and to meet certification requirements in emergency management and the Presidential Youth Fitness Program.

Tippah and other school districts that offer the course accept students in 10th through 12th grades.

“We didn’t get any students from North Tippah schools to register this year, but I hope some of them will be interested next year,” McCain said.

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com