Students looking for a class at Dalton High School where they can stay uninvolved should avoid Ken Wiggins’ classes.
In his seventh year at Dalton High, Wiggins teaches three classes within the Law and Justice career pathway—Crime Scene, Law Enforcement, and Policing, Law and Community Response.
“The (students) are very active,” Wiggins said of his classes. “There’s always something to do.”
Anyone at the school can sign up for any of Wiggins’s classes—there is no grade level/age requirement, and since there is no recommended sequence, students can sign up for his classes in any order they choose. You also don’t have to plan a future in law enforcement to take one of the classes—anybody is welcome.
“The majority of my students aren’t going into law enforcement,” Wiggins said. In the Law Enforcement class, students learn about police corrections, uniforms and equipment, and weapons and how they are used. “Most (students) have had some sort of contact with police even if it’s just a traffic stop, so it’s really easy to pull personal stories.”
Weapons are not used in the class or used in presentations. “We just want to familiarize them with the weapons,” Wiggins said. “An officer comes in and speaks, but we don’t have the weapons in class.”
They also learn defensive tactics, how to handle a SWAT situation, and how to conduct a high-risk traffic stop.
Wiggins said the main thing to maintain is to make sure enough is taught in the class so students get a feel for the role of people in law enforcement.
“We will teach them how to punch and kick, but that’s it,” he said. “ If you go to the police academy, you’ll learn a lot more there.”
The Crime Scene class delves into how to work a crime scene. It covers everything from what to notice when first going to a crime scene (are the victims dead or alive?) to whether there is impression evidence from shoes or tires. They also do a bit of forensic work such as a fuming chamber to develop fingerprints, but they don’t go very heavy into the science that’s involved. Students even dissect a pig to perform an “autopsy.”
Wiggins describes his Law Class as a “catch-all” because so many things are covered within the content. Much of the legal aspects are covered from criminal law, constitutional law and the Georgia code book. Mock and criminal trials are covered, as well as emergency response (first aid, CERT [Community Emergency Response Training], search-and-rescue and fire response).
Wiggins also helps with SkillsUSA: a career tech organization dedicated to community service. These students help out at Dalton sporting events, including baseball, softball and football. At softball and baseball games, the students make sure that everyone pays before going into the game. For football nights at Harmon Field, they help with many things: ensuring only season ticket holders go through the designated gate, directing traffic, and making sure the visiting team’s locker room is secure and not disturbed.
“I get to know the kids and spend time with them,” Wiggins said about teaching and SkillsUSA. “I stay in contact with some kids that have already graduated.”
Senior Efra Uscanga said, “I started the class because I thought it was interesting, but I stayed for (Mr. Wiggins),” said senior Efra Uscanga. “He takes that extra step to know you.”
Uscanga said thanks to Wiggins’s classes, he’s considering becoming a professor at a university. “He’s more than a teacher; he’s a friend,” he said. “He has made me who I am.”
Wiggins said he wants his students to understand that law enforcement is a dangerous job. “If students can understand why officers do what they do and are the way they are, I’ve done my part.”
By Lindsey Derrick, Dalton Public Schools Contributor