Stephenville High School is paying attention to what students want.

According to Principal Travis Stilwell, a new criminal justice course will be offered this fall as an elective in response to a student survey taken three years ago.

“Criminal justice was far and away the choice of the kids,” Stilwell said.

Stilwell said the course will be taught by Shawna Newton, an Erath County Juvenile Probation Officer for the past 10 years with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Tarleton State University.

Newton, 33, was recently hired and said not all of the details for the classes have been worked out but said she will teach two different classes, including an Introduction to Criminal Justice. The other class is yet to be determined.

Teaching won’t be new to Newton because she served as an adjunct professor at TSU for two years in this field.

“I’ve always had an interest in teaching,” Newton said. “I’ve always wanted to help kids. So, I’m not leaving a job that helps kids to go to one where I’m not helping kids. It’s helping in a different way.”

Nevertheless, Newton said leaving the probation department was a difficult decision for her because her co-workers there “are family to me.”

“It was a hard decision to make but one I made for the best interest of my family and my future,” Newton said. “Whether it was me teaching it or not, I always felt it was a class that should be offered at this level.

“So many kids commit crimes that they might think are small and it can effect them for the rest of their lives in getting jobs or attending college. It’s always good to know the law and how it works in our society.”

Newton said she plans on making the courses fun as well as educational for the students and will teach about things that they want to know about.

She said Intro to Criminal Justice is vast and it could be a two-year course and still not cover all of the topics.

“I’m real interested in letting them do crime scene investigation,” Newton said. “The class will be involved and hands on.”

Newton said she will also be involved with a CSI camp to be offered at TSU next summer and hopes her students will participate.

Newton said the course would provide “a good foundation” for a number of career choices. She said career choices for which her course would be beneficial would be attorney, probation officer, corrections officer, police officer and the social work field in general.

Newton will travel to Denton every other Tuesday and some Saturdays to attend the University of North Texas in order to become a certified teacher and she will be fully certified by the end of the coming school year.