Former sheriff’s criminal justice class a big hit in first year

Members of the Huntington County Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees learned that one class at the high school experienced a success this past school year, leading to doubling the number of students taking it next fall.

Former Huntington County Sheriff Terry Stoffel, who now is the instructor of the criminal justice class, said he learned nearly as much as his students during his first class. Students previously attended a criminal justice class at Heartland Career Center in Wabash.

“I personally learned a lot from the kids and there are things they brought to the table,” he told the board. “I was afforded the luxury that they wanted to be in my class; it wasn’t that they had to be in my class. So it was pretty neat – they all wanted to be there.”

Since criminal justice was offered again at HNHS, Stoffel says several of his students have decided to pursue careers in some type of law enforcement, from a police officer to military police to one planning to become a defense attorney.

Students in the class studied the history of the criminal justice system, took lie detector tests, used “fatal vision” goggles to simulate impaired driving and even shot a handgun and shotgun at a shooting range. They also visited the jail and sat in on a trial at the courthouse as part of the curriculum.

In addition, the students went through certification to become jail officers, a program of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. Stoffel said one of his students actually landed a job at the jail after obtaining his certification.

Stoffel received an $8,000 grant for a “shoot-no shoot” machine. He hopes to obtain another grant this next year to purchase a driving simulator for the class.

He cited a shortage of police officers in Huntington County as a need that the students in the criminal justice class can help fill.

“This is a good, good tool or mechanism that can help stimulate law enforcement within Huntington County,” he added.

There will now be two criminal justice classes in the 2019-2020 school year with about 30 students already signed up, Stoffel says.

School Superintendent Chad Daugherty said HCCSC had a criminal justice program a few years ago but it didn’t last and student interest dwindled.

“You can take a great program but you can’t wrap it around a mediocre teacher,” he said. “As you can see, Terry is phenomenal. The relationships he builds with people are phenomenal. And just some of the activities that he’s able to give these students, these are real-world experiences that he’s been able to do, and the experience he’s had, he’s been able to transfer that to the classroom.”

Daugherty noted that Stoffel also started the Operation Impact program at the high school, in which high school students speak to younger children about topics such as the dangers of drug use.

In other business before the board:

• The 2019-2020 textbook rental fees for the high school were approved 5-0, with board members Matt Roth and Brian Warpup absent.
Daugherty said fees for the criminal justice class and Welding I and II have been covered by grants and students will not have to pay rental fees.

• A new position, a “super sub” bus driver, was approved unanimously, along with the filling of that position by Susan Guelsdorf.

• An agreement with the Indiana School of the Blind and Visually Impaired was also approved. Assistant Superintendent for Business and Classified Staff Scott Bumgardner said 15 students in the district have visual impairments. He added that the district may seek to hire a staff member in the future because of the rising costs in contracting out the service.

• A new boiler condensate system for Salamonie School was unanimously approved, at a cost of $44,914, which will be installed by Building Temperature Solutions of Fort Wayne.

• Coming up will be a public hearing on Aug. 2, at 6 p.m. at Crestview Middle School, prior to teacher contract negotiations. Bumgardner said the hearing is a new state requirement before bargaining can begin.

“We have to bargain now in public,” added Daugherty. “That will be an open meeting that will be between district administration and also the teacher’s union. That will be in a public forum.”