School Desk

Dewitt Clinton meets ‘CSI’


It’s a gruesome scene that looks like it is lifted from Law and Order or CSI: a blood-spattered sidewalk between swaths of snow-covered grass. 

While some would find the image stomach-churning, students in DeWitt Clinton High School’s forensics class were unfazed by the image projected on a screen at the front of the classroom, enthusiastically hypothesizing about what could have led to the bloodshed.

“It looks like someone got stabbed,” said senior David Pinales. Another student said the scene reminded him of the show Dexter.

For Julio St. Surin, who has taught both biology and forensics at the school for the past 15 years, the class is all about keeping students engaged by presenting them with real world scenarios. At the same time, the teacher intertwines  scientific phenomena that are often presented superficially on TV. 

During this particular lesson, Mr. St. Surin focused on the role of blood spatter — that is, the pattern of blood created when the substance is deposited on a surface — in crime scene investigations.

He said the shape of a blood droplet can tell investigators a great deal about the nature of a crime. 

“There’s a story it’s telling you,” said Mr. St. Surin, who worked as a lab technician and then a physician in Haiti before moving to the U.S. and becoming a teacher. “You have to learn to read that story.”

Many of the students in his elective class are interested in pursuing criminal justice or careers in the medical field when they graduate from high school, hoping to attend institutions like the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan.  

“This is something I want to do,” said Richard Perez, a senior at the school. “I’m trying to be a cop when I get older, so I like it, and I like the class.” 

Mr. St. Surin and his teaching assistant Jessica Acevedo explained that several factors — including the type of weapon used during a crime, the angle of impact and the height from which blood drops to the ground — can influence the nature of the blood spatter at a crime scene. 

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