Justice Returns to Cam High


Photo by: Sarah Wortman

Mr. Dowden teaches his newly formed Criminal Justice class fifth period. The class was recreated second semester of this school year after it was discontinued in 2005.

Thirty-eight students at Cam High added a new elective, criminal justice, to their second semester schedules. The formerly cancelled class, taught by social science teacher Mr. Bill Dowden during fifth period, was recreated this semester.

“It was restarted this semester because they were looking for some teachers to teach electives,” said Dowden. “So many students are taking Opportunities for ‘not’ Learning class, it’s cutting down the number of students. [The school district] would like to have more electives so that they would be able to retain teachers that teach the required classes.” Dowden was referring to the growing number of students who opt to take classes from companies such as Opportunities for Learning and Mission View Academy, accredited private companies that offer courses for credit during the school year and summer months.

Dowden taught Criminal Justice previously from 1999 to 2005, when the class was primarily taken by seniors and counted for government credit. It was initially discontinued because the Oxnard Union High School District no longer believed that it should be deemed equivalent to a government class. Criminal justice class now counts only for elective credits and will be inclusive of both juniors and seniors. “There’s a lot of similarities to government class,” said Dowden. “The Bill of Rights, the Fourth Amendment, the Constitution, the three branches. The subject matter is very similar.”

The elective currently holds the maximum class size, thirty-eight students. According to Dowden, a minimum of twenty sign-ups was required to create the class and two days after he received the notice he would teach the class, over 80 students had signed-up for criminal justice. Another elective that was considered for this semester, history of Mexican-American culture, is currently not taught at Cam High due to a lack of sign-ups, according to Mr. Thomas Taketa, Cam High counselor.

Many students switched around their schedules to accommodate the elective. “I wanted to educate myself on our criminal justice system so that I can back up my opinions on it. I think the most interesting part of the class is learning about all the different cases and what people and criminals are capable of,” said Madison Boulais, junior. “Also, I recently have been thinking about becoming a detective of some sort so I thought the class would be good for me to test the waters and see if it’s something I like.”

The criminal justice system involves many different aspects; including courts, probation, the amendments, search and seizure, warrants and exceptions to them, equal protection, law, and more. “A lot of students who signed up for [the class] want to go into careers in the criminal justice system,” said Dowden. “Some of those careers are police, sheriff, judge, parole and probation officer, FBI agent, private investigator, all kinds of things.”

On a daily basis, students have discussions on the criminal justice system and other topics such as current events and politics. One topic the class recently discussed was the O.J. Simpson case. “Mr. Dowden usually tells us a story that’s related to the topic of that day’s discussion, and then we take notes and talk,” said Boulais.

Aside from discussion, the criminal justice elective has also had a guest speaker come during class. Deputy Sean Eskridge, Cam High’s school resource officer, was the first guest to visit. The class may have more guest speakers in the future. “I enjoyed [speaking to the class]. We talked about criminal justice as a whole, a little bit about search and seizure, things applicable to kids your age, my career and situations, and an overview of my job,” said Eskridge. “I am excited that there’s a criminal justice class at school, excited that there are a lot of kids in the class, and excited kids are interested in the criminal justice field.”

There are several reasons why Dowden chooses to teach the class. “I’ve been to law school, I’ve taught [Criminal Justice] in the past, it’s an interesting subject, and the students like the subject matter,” said Dowden. “It’s one of the largest majors on any college campus, because you can go into many different [careers involving the subject]. The most interesting thing about the class are the students that take it, the questions they ask, their interest in criminal justice,” he said.