ELMA, N.Y. — For the past 14 years, Officer Joseph DePlato has been a familiar face in the Iroquois Central School District.
He first served as a school resource officer (SRO) while he was a New York State Trooper, and now he is a town police officer assigned to the schools as an SRO.
Officer DePlato's job is to keep the students safe, but over the years, his role has grown to include addressing the problem of bullying.
He said it's important to get to know the students because that helps build a sense of trust. Then students will feel more comfortable coming forward and talking to him about any problems they are having.
Officer DePlato admits bullying today isn't the same today, especially with the rise of social media. He said counselors and other administrators help to monitor what's going on on social media, but they can't always catch every negative post. They often have to look for changes in students once they walk through the doors to see if something that happened online or outside of school is affecting their mood or behavior.
He encourages parents to monitor their child's social media activity to see if he or she is the victim of bullying or the one who is doing the bullying.
Officer DePlato said he has seen an increase in the number of students who come to talk to him about a bullying problem, but he doesn't necessarily see that as a bad thing or indicative of a rise in bullying. He thinks more students feel more comfortable in talking about the problem and more students are coming forward to defend victims.