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HaysFreePress.com February 20, 2013 CSI KYLE Kyle Police Department gives insight into its forensics. - Page 1C Page 3B Lehman forensics class learns about crime investigation BY KIM HILSENBECK kim@haysfreepress.com As the lead investigator of the crime scene, Jerry Ayala spoke to witnesses to piece together the clues and develop a working theory of whodunit. There were six witness- es; two emergency medical technicians and four police officers. Ayala also assigned teams to measure the house and collect details about the scene. "Me and my partner ar- rived at 11:45 p.m.," said Of- ricer Prime, one of the police officers who was first on the scene. Prime and his partner, Officer Bee, checked out the back of the house. The other officers, Brawl and Jazz, provided their details to Ayala. EMTs Ironhide and Ratchet did the same. "We found signs of forced entry at the back door," Prime said. "We surveyed the house until we met up with officers Jazz and Brawl in the kitchen.". If the names of those officers sound a lot like characters from The Transformers, it's because they are. Jolene Richlen, a Fo- rensics teacher at Lehman High School, admitted she used names from the popular fiction story. Richlen said the class has been offered for the past five years; she has taught it for the last two. What does she think is the appeal of this class? "They see it on TV and so now they have a class where they can learn what they're doing and now they know how it works," Richlen said. "I do get a lot of, 'How do I get away with this' kind of questions," she said. For example, someone asked, "If I burn off my fingerprints, am I going to get away with it?" A student interrupted with a ques- tion about the exercise. She listened for a moment then responded, "Make sure everybody's stories are matching, check to see that nobody is leaving out informa- tion." Ayala, who is 16, said everyone he'd interviewed so far had the same version of events. But he had yet to talk to the EMTs on the other side of the room. A group of role-playing students broke character long enough to answer, "What is the most interest- ing thing about taking a forensics class?" "We seem to be doing a lot of fun things in here," said Jordan Newhall, 18From a nearby group, a student interjected, "How to kill people." But the student amended that statement, saying "How not to get Caught." The forensics class counts as a science credit for seniors at Lehman High School; it's an elective for other students. Richlen said they use a lot of role- playing but it is science. Her interest in forensics stems from her anthropology degree. "'I've always been interested in anthropology," she said. "I'm going to go back and get my masters in forensic anthropology and hope- fully work in a crime lab somewhere identifying human remains." "I'd been trying to get my hands on this class be- i/i i Richlen said a big part of the mock crime scenes involves questioning skills. "We play a game called Dead Guy," Richlen said. "I pick a killer, it's been serial kill- famous cause I've taught ers lately. They chemistry; I know the background ask me up to 20 to all the stuff I'm teaching." questions. But Forensics is a science that encom- if they get to 19 passes several fields of study: chem- and someone istry, biology, physics. Occasionally asks a really a crime also requires some under- good question standing of other fields including with a lot of zoology, mineralogy and textiles, detail, I'll give "I try to get real world guest them an extra speakers in to talk with the stu- question." dents," she said. So much of fo- Richlen said she is not teaching a rensics is about fluff class, critical thinking, "I expect them to learn and I hold she said. them accountable. They have to fill "They've out their notebooks and you can gotten better," see the progression. This is the best Richlen said. She group I've had; they ask very good smiled. "Some- questions." times they get She said many of the class lessons derailed." lead to discussions of what ifs. She and fel- "Someone might ask, 'If I put low teacher Lori them in a vat of alcohol, what would Smith have been happen?' So we start taking about trying to teach that, but someone will chime in, the logic and 'but someone can trace that.' They common sense have started asking really good part of foren- questions." sics but also in Richlen said she and her students general. get involved in discussions about '"You always details related to crime scenes and have to think about forensics. "Some of them have started think- ing about the consequences and all the little things where they could get caught," she said. PHOTOS BY KIM HILSENBECK Mock investigator Jerry Ayala investigates clues during a recent mock crime scene in a Forensics class at Lehman High School Natalia Florez, 16, played the role of the victim in the tape outline. "1 try to cover as much of that as possible - follow your job to the letter. Always think, 'could this be questioned in any way,' Make sure that whatever you're doing couldn't be picked apart by a defense attorney." -Jolene Richman, a Forensics science teacher at Lehman High School how your part would affect a legal case," Richlen said. Regarding the chain of evidence, she said "I try to cover as much of that as possible - follow your job to the letter. Always think, 'could this be questioned in any way,' Make sure that whatever you're doing couldn't be picked apart by a de- fense attorney." "We really want to hit on their questioning skills," she said. "So if they didn't ask the right questions, they wouldn't be able to solve the case because they would be missing key information." When her investigative team did the exercise wrap up, which in- volved a victim who was struck on the skull from be- hind, they nailed the scenario on the head, so to speak. "Somebody broke into the back door," said one of the inves- tigators. "There were bloody foot- prints and forced entry. The hit on the back of the head indicates it was a surprise." Other students added that the library was not touched, yet the office was ran- sacked. "So what is the conclusion?" Richlen asked. One student called out, "He knew the perpe- trator. They were looking for some- thing specific." Several students in the class said it's important to follow the facts. "Evidence is key," said one young lady. More than half the class said they would want a future job in forensics. O BY KIM HILSENBECK kim@haysfreepress.com Total HCISD spending per student 2009-2010 enrollment as of Jan. 24, 2010 = 14,625 - $10,062 2010-2011 enrollment as of Jan. 24, 2011 = 15,346 - $10,625 2011-2012 enrollment as of Jan. 23, 2012 = 15,898 - $9,997 2012-2013 enrollment as of Jan. 28, 2013 = 16,470 - $9,570 After months of testimony, State District Judge John Dietz ruled that the funding mechanism in place in Texas for public education violates the state's constitution by not providing enough money to school districts and failing to distribute the money fairly, loss of competitive position." comptroller of public accounts and Dietz also said that the state's Dietz wrote that the problem with the state board of education. new demands on accountability education in Texas today is that The plaintiffs were more than and standardized testing, such as "we are not producing college and 600 public school districts across the STAAR test and end-of-course career-ready students." He relayed the state, including Hays CISD; the exams, means Texas has a duty to an anecdote to opine that Texas case was comprised of six separate provide adequate resources, could get students up to speed with lawsuits. Hays CISD's lawsuit, filed "As the economists put it, there about a $10 billion increase in public by the Houston firm Thompson & is no free lunch. We either want education funding-essentially atax Horton, was part of the group that increased standards and are willing increase, included a variety of districts in to pay the price, or we don't," Dietz His Feb. 4 decision on the school terms of wealth and diversity. said in his ruling. "However, as the finance case came shortly after the Hays CISD Board of Trustees economists point out, there is a cost closing arguments from both sides. President Willie Tenorio said in an toacting, namelythetaxincreaseand The defendants were the Texas email that Hays CISD joined the there is a cost to not acting, namely commissioner of education, the state litigation because the current school funding system violates the state constitution. "Both property rich and property poor school districts were parties to the lawsuit because the system is unfair to all school districts," he wrote. He added that the ruling against the state was as expected. Tenorio said funding cuts during the last legislative session resulted in cuts to classroom teachers and thereby increased student to teacher ratios in Hays CISD. "We also cut math and reading intervention teachers, custodians, and truancy officers," he said. Yet in September, trustees approved a budget that provided salary raises, higher contributions to employee health care premiums by the district, no staffing cuts and no increase in student-teacher ratios. Complaints filed against the state See FINANCIAL LAWSUIT, pg. 4B SCHOOL BRIEFS Mr. Rebel Pageant this Come out and watch senior guys strut their stuff at the 2013 Mr. Rebel Contest. Tickets are being sold on campus for $4. Tickets will be $5 at the door. All the proceeds will go toward the Hays High Project Graduation - an all night lock in event to help reduce the chance of students drinking and driving while celebrating graduation. The pageants takes place at 7 p.m.this Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Hays High School theater. Sleep well and raise money for Lehman band The Lehman High School Band is hosting a mattress fundraiser from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 23, at the school. Funds raised from this event will help pay for instruments and travel. Lehman to host College Forward for juniors High scl~ool juniors can learn more about college by attending College Forward. Economically disadvantaged students can receive free college access services to assist beginning with the application and financial aid process and continuing through graduation from a four-year college. The event takes place at 4 p.m. Feb. 26 in room B100 at Lehman High School. District Talent Showcase The District Talent Showcase will be held at 7 p.m. Mar. 8 at the Hays CISD Performing Arts Center. Hosted by the Hays High School Choir, proceeds from the event go toward the choir scholarship fund. Percussion Concert The Hays High, Dahlstrom Middle School and Barton Middle School percussion concert will take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 27 in the Burdine- Johnson Theatre at Hays High School. Buda Lions Club donates more than S19K to Hays schools At Monday's regular meeting of the Hays CISD Board of Trustees, the Buda Lions Club presented more than $19,000 in checks for several middle schools as well as Hays High and Lehman High. Each year, the Lions donated a percentage of concession stand sales to support the schools. Spring Break for Hays CISD All students and faculty will be out of school the week of March 11-15 for Hays CISD's annual spring break. Campuses, buildings and the main district office will be closed.