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South Jordan Journal

CSI: Bingham High School

Jul 07, 2023 10:06AM ● By Peri Kinder

Students in the Bingham High School medical forensics class take a field trip to the bone field near Copperton to learn about crime scene investigation. (Photo courtesy Jordan School District)

It was a cold spring day as students from Bingham High School searched through an area near the Copperton Cemetery. The site was cordoned off with police tape as South Jordan detectives and forensic experts joined the students in gathering evidence. 

The experience was a field trip for students in the BHS medical forensics class where they’ve spent the year learning how to collect evidence, perform bone and blood spatter analysis, follow chain of command with evidence to keep it untainted and become good observers of the world around them. 

Using legally-acquired animal remains from taxidermists, police officers planted the evidence to give students valuable experience in the process of crime scene analysis. 

“They get a real-world view from the police department and the detectives and from the forensic experts that work with them in the city,” Cynthia Cox said, class instructor at BHS. “It’s been a great opportunity for us to work with local law enforcement. One of those detectives, a forensic specialist, has just been phenomenal to help.”

Cox started the popular class several years ago because she enjoys giving students new experiences and opportunities. They learn about crime scene investigation as well as toxicology, evidence analysis, observation skills, biases in observation and how to become aware of their surroundings. 

“They like the class, especially those kids that have seen some of the crime shows on TV,” Cox said. “It’s good to have a class that gives us the opportunity to help feed them accurate information. You know, not all crimes are solved in 47 minutes between commercials.”

Lexi Smith is a South Jordan resident and recent BHS graduate. She’ll start at Utah State University this fall, enrolled in the nursing program. Smith said the class was eye-opening in comparison to how evidence is handled in movies and TV. 

She learned how meticulous and careful investigators must be to keep evidence from being contaminated or lost. Each assignment meant paying attention to detail and following a step-by-step process. She was surprised at how long it took to gather evidence and how much evidence had to be collected to solve a crime. 

“I knew I wanted a health care career so I was hoping to get something out of it. I didn't know what I was in for,” Smith said. “It started off slow and I thought it was going to be easy. And then the year really kicked off.”

Some students who have taken the class have gone on to police careers, but for others, the class taught them it was a career they didn’t want to pursue. Cox said it’s a win either way and added that all her students have gained respect for the jobs of forensic science experts and crime detectives.

“A lot of them have more understanding of exactly what it takes to solve a crime and why maybe when something happens in their neighborhood or in their community, their car gets broken into or whatever, why maybe they don't have immediate answers,” Cox said. 

“It takes time to collect that evidence, to be able to interview people, to be able to put all of the pieces of that puzzle together before they solve crimes with conviction. You can’t just go around accusing people of crimes, we have to have the evidence. I do think that they get a better appreciation for law enforcement officers in general and for the work that they do.”

Smith said even if a person isn’t considering a career in healthcare or law enforcement, the class is an interesting opportunity and she challenges students at BHS to enroll. 

“You learn so much,” she said. “You appreciate the people that are doing it and maybe you’ll find yourself wanting a forensics career.” λ