NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- New Rochelle High School's forensic science final exam took students to the scenes of mock crimes because of the partnership the school district has with the New Rochelle Police Department and people in the community. This collaboration made the crime scenes authentic, allowing the school's forensic science students to do their work much like real forensic scientists and crime scene investigators.
Nature Study Woods was an active spot Wednesday as six classes came to collect evidence from six homicides. More than 140 students discovered blood spatter, bullet casings and tire tracks. They analyzed torn clothing, body positioning and shoeprints.
Grace Turkewitz was looking for bullet casings and other evidence from her victim's attacker because she found gunshot wounds. "We've done lab stuff in the class, but everything we do out here is a lot different because it feels more real," the junior said. "We're actually putting our skills we've been learning all year to use."
The efforts of the Police Department and 20 seniors and college students - alumni from the program - helped make six homicide crime scenes look authentic. The police department contributed six officers and a supervisor. The officers interacted with students as first responders and assisted in grading the students based on their evidence collection and observation skills. Many of the officers have been assisting the school with the exam since its inception 17 years ago. The New Rochelle Police Forensic Unit also paid a visit to examine the crime scenes.
"It's a great partnership with the police department because police officers and detectives get to have a nice informal interaction with students," said teacher Scott Rubins, who coordinates the exam along with teachers Peggy Younger and Andrea Schwach. "This is very positive, in an environment where they get to work together with the school district and the students."
Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne; Assistant Superintendent Joe Williams; NRHS Principal Reggie Richardson; Mayor Noam Bramson; Perry Perrone, Chief of Homicide Bureau Westchester County DA; and Dr. Cathy Lavery, Chair of the Criminal Justice Department at Iona College, were among the notables who came to watch the students and support the program.
"This is a culminating experience after an entire year's worth of work," Rubins said. "They get to show off what they learn and what they understand, and that they can take that understanding and apply it to a real-world scenario. We want to push them hard to see how they process the crime scenes. The whole class is about thinking and processing."
Four of the six forensic science classes are college-level, providing students with four college credits from Syracuse University upon completion.