Former FBI agent inspires students

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Each new year at Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries brings new courses and experiences, but few have been as popular with students as the new senior-level elective, "Criminal Law and Procedure" taught by former FBI agent Michael McGinty. He is a former FBI special agent and lawyer who began a second career as a Spanish teacher at John Paul three years ago. McGinty's class was inspired by past experience and student curiosity.

"It's a passion of mine after 26 years in the FBI, and the students seemed really interested," McGinty said. "In Spanish class they would constantly ask for stories from my FBI days, which gave me the idea for the course."

The course explores investigative methods based on the constitutional standards of search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment and due process and self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment. McGinty begins the course with theoretical understanding, then moves into a more hands-on approach.

"First, students learn the law, then they apply what they've learned in virtual scenarios that we present in class," McGinty said. "The next thing we will work on is a virtual bank robbery, and each student will have a role to play, such as case agent or member of an investigative team. Students will conduct victim and witness interviews, and will need to legally interrogate a suspect in order to build a case that could stand up in a court of law."

At first, students were surprised that the process was so different from the crime shows they watch on television.

"TV has done a lot to spark interest in criminal law, and while entertaining, (the shows) are completely inaccurate," said McGinty.

To further underscore how things are done in real life, the class participates in a special tour of the FBI Academy at Marine Corps Base Quantico, led by McGinty's former colleagues.

For some students, the course has had an impact in shaping life goals. Senior Garrett Hawley said that he has always had an interest in the FBI, but since taking the class his interest has grown. He now hopes to take a criminal justice course in college next year.

"I signed up for the class because of my interest in criminal law, and because I knew Mr. McGinty is a great teacher," said Hawley. "My favorite part of the class is Mr. McGinty's stories, but I also like going in-depth on Supreme Court cases. I recommend that every senior take this class. Mr. McGinty will make you work, but it's worth it."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015