Officer Joseph DePlato has been involved with the Iroquois Central School District resource officer program since its inception in 2003. It was one of the first districts in Erie County to bring in an armed resource officer and has helped lead the way with its program since then.
He was so successful, and the district appreciated his work so much, when Officer DePlato retired from New York State Police, the Town of Elma swore him in as its only police officer to let him continue his work at the school.
"We realize the safety aspect is not just having a police officer in the building, but someone who worries and takes care of the social and emotional well-being of the student," Superintendent Douglas Scofield explained.
Officer DePlato carries his service weapon on the job and he works with administrators to develop emergency response plans. But, a lot of his work involves day to day interactions with students and supporting them through challenges they're facing in and out of the classroom.
"I'm not the disciplinarian here," he explained. "I'm here for you. If there is a problem or you need something please come and see me. I am here to help you. I'm not going to scream and yell at you. That's not what I do."
"They know they can go to him for anything and he won't yell at them, he won't judge them and he will give them advice," Bette Dehr, a guidance counselor at Iroquois High School, said.
Officer DePlato is the first to say he couldn't do his job alone. He works closely with guidance counselors and the school's psychologist and social worker to be sure each student gets the help he or she might need.