ELMA, NY - Schools in several districts in the Southtowns are getting creative to combat bullying. They're partnering with law enforcement, not just to work in one district, but to work in five.
"They don't want to talk about it, they're whether ashamed or depressed or whatever, so it's very difficult to identify," said Erie County Sheriff Deputy Benjamin Pisa, about the ongoing issue of kids getting bullied.
As a school resource officer, Pisa's got probably one of the toughest jobs you'll find these days in schools - to help victims of bullying and keep an eye out for the bullies.
"Because it has become a very accepting culture, I think a lot of time they don't have people calling them out on their behavior, their poor behavior," Pisa said.
And Pisa doesn't work at just one school.
He works at five school districts: Iroquois, Holland, Alden, North Collins and Springville-Griffith.
While visiting the high schools of each district once per week, he keeps an ear to what's happening in the other schools.
"I have come across it most recently last Thursday the principal (a local school) called me about a girl who was very depressed from bullying so I made the calls, I spoke to the principal and I spoke to the parents, I spoke to the child and it had been handled," said Pisa.
Senator Patrick Gallivan thinks more time needs to go by to learn more about the effectiveness of the plan.
"This different model, I think it'll take a little time to see if this is the ideal model or a workable model or not," he said.
Ideas for this new model to fight problems in schools...including bullying, emerged from a roundtable discussion 2 On Your Side held in October 2011.
A month earlier, 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer committed suicide. He was a victim of incessant bullying from his peers at Williamsville North. Senator Gallivan was on the panel. And Pisa's workload comes from a $100K state grant obtained by Gallivan.
"It was unanimous when we heard from school administrators, that were present at that roundtable, when we heard from students especially and teachers, they welcome school resource officers, they welcome law enforcement in the school," said Gallivan.
But will students who do the bullying be accepting of Pisa? The armed officer in the hallway.
"Not everyone is open and receptive yet, but they're certainly warming up and I want them to know I have an open door," said Pisa.
Pisa's job is funded for this school year. If the program continues, it would need additional funding and commitment from the schools involved.
In past budgets, both at the state and federal level, school resource officers are often cut. If that happens next year, school administrators say they want to fill the void of the school resource officer.