By Janet Bradley
Mark Lundy, the Criminal Justice instructor at Bell High School, is extremely proud of his students and the program offered at BHS. Students in Grades 9-12 may enroll in the Criminal Justice Academy and take a series of three courses beginning with Criminal Justice 1 and ending with Criminal Justice 3. Seniors can now enroll in the 911 Public Service Telecommunications (PST) class and earn a 911 Public Service Telecommunication certification.
Criminal Justice classes have been offered to students for many years at Bell High School. The Criminal Justice 1 course consists of introducing the students to the history, goals, and career opportunities in the Criminal Justice Profession. This course is typically taken in the ninth grade. Criminal Justice 2, which is taken the second year in the program, is to introduce the students to the characteristics of law and procedures of patrol, how to complete written reports, and crime prevention programs. Criminal Justice 3, which is taken the third year of the program, focuses on introducing students to crime scene safety, conducting criminal investigations, conducting forensic processing, and completing property control procedures. Students receive their CPR certification and First Aid Certification during this course. After completing these three courses, students are considered concentrators or completers in the program.
The highlight of the Criminal Justice Academy is the addition of the 911 Public Service Telecommunication Certification for seniors. In 2011 a 911 Simulator System was purchased for the program, but with a change in teachers the system sat on a shelf for a few years until a certified instructor took over the program. The simulator allows students to practice the procedures of a 911 dispatcher. Lundy stated, “The simulator system was sitting there not being used. Most of the groundwork had been done and it was a matter of getting it up and running so our students could earn a certification”. Lundy worked as a correctional officer, a road deputy, and worked for the Drug Task Force before becoming an educator. He has been the Criminal Justice instructor at BHS for 4 years.
The 911 Public Service Telecommunication class is a hands-on approach to teaching students how to become 911 Dispatchers. Students must complete 232 hours of classroom work and hands-on experience before sitting for the certification exam. These hours consist of learning vocabulary terms related to each agency such as fire, EMS, and law enforcement. By doing this, students learn which agency to dispatch in an emergency situation. The students also learn Dispatch Radio Signals which is a numerical description of emergency calls.
As part of the 232 hours of instruction, students are transported to the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office every other Tuesday to shadow in the Communications Center. They rotate in groups of 2-4 in and out of the center. They observe calls and see how they are entered into the CAD system and observe who is dispatched to the scene. Lundy commented, “These students can start out earning between $24,000-$26,000 in a small district and between $26,000-$36,000 in a larger district. This is pretty good considering they get benefits and Florida Retirement”. Kerceton Walker, a 2018 graduate of BHS, earned the 911 Public Service Telecommunication certification and is now employed at the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office as a dispatcher. Students can take the certification test before the age of 18, but must be 18 to be employed as a dispatcher. After passing their certification exam, students are eligible for dispatch jobs at a Sheriff’s Office, Highway Patrol, and any other emergency operations call center in Florida. During the 2017-2018 school year, eight of eleven students in the 911 Public Service Communication course at BHS earned the certification. There are sixteen students in the program for 2018-2019 and Lundy has high expectations for all students to pass.
Certification was not required for 911 dispatchers until 2008. The Denise Amber Lee Act was passed by lawmakers creating Florida Statute 401.465 which requires all 911 dispatchers to pass the certification exam.
Academy Offers 911 Public Service Telecommunication Certification
By Janet Bradley