CSI: High School

Published 8:51 am Monday, November 23, 2015

Star Photo/Rebekah Price Elizabethton High School students connect thread to blood spatters and use a protractor to determine the direction from which it splattered.

Star Photo/Rebekah Price
Elizabethton High School students connect thread to blood spatters and use a protractor to determine the direction from which it splattered.

Blood spatter analysis, DNA tests, fingerprint lifting, footprint molding and skeletal studies are only a few of the skills that regional high school students have been practicing in their criminal justice programs to prepare for the 5th annual Crime Scene Investigation Competition at Valley Forge Baptist Church.
This year, 126 students participated from nine schools, with the largest group — 26 students — coming from Elizabethton High School.
According to EHS student Tanner Stiltner, his school was the only one participating in every competition category. Brian Culbert, Career and Technical Education Director at EHS, said this is the third year that EHS has hosted the event, and that the program at EHS is the only one with two instructors in the state of Tennessee.
Judges represented various local branches of law enforcement including the Elizabethton Police Department, and Carter, Washington, and Sullivan County Sheriff’s Departments, as well as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
“This provides a great opportunity for students to interact with various law enforcement personnel in the community, while giving the students a chance to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in their field of interest,” said Elizabethton Police Department Capt. Joy Shoun.
The categories in which they were tested were firearm forensics, fingerprint, field sobriety, bones, glass evidence, autopsy, mold casting, blood splatter, crime scene sketch and photography, and quick scene study.
South Central High School placed first overall, and EHS won in the quick search.
The quick search is an outdoor scene in which students are given a hypothetical situation, a time limit, and pieces of evidence to locate and analyze including a cell phone, knife, blood, DNA and shell casings with the premise that there has been a homicide in a possible drug deal gone bad with rain in the forecast.
“This makes for a realistic scenario because in a real life situation with limited time, investigators would branch off to a search team, interview team and other groups to get the job done,” said CCSD Captain Mike Little.
Students at EHS said that instructor Ryan Presnell’s criminal justice classes and opportunities like these help prepare them for careers in law enforcement, which many students are planning on having.
Olivia Sapp said she wants to be a police investigator.
“This gives us the chance to practice the skills we learn in class as well as helping us make connections for when we actually enter the field,” she said.
Luke White said one student who competed last year already has an internship in law enforcement.
Sapp said Presnell treats his class like a college course, and other students agreed his honest approach helped give them inside perspective on what law enforcement would really be like.
“Mr. Presnell tells us exactly how it is in the real world, and this competition allows us to apply those skills,” said Josh Ross.
According to Brian Culbert, EHS Director of Career and Technical Education, the competition tests students on state criminal justice standards, and he said it is a great opportunity to get all the region’s criminal justice teachers together.
High schools represented were Elizabethton, Happy Valley, Sullivan East, Sullivan Central, Sullivan North, Dobyns Bennett, Science Hill, Greene County, Tennessee, Volunteer, and Daniel Boone.
Students took the opportunity seriously and competed diligently to put their training to practice, and to have their eyes opened to what it might be like performing various tests in a time-sensitive investigation.
“If you’re going into this field, it gives you a good sense of what you’re getting into,” said Happy Valley student Amber Earp.

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