Suffolk police team with LGBT Network to tackle school bullying

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HAUPPAUGE -

Suffolk police and the LGBT Network are teaming up to fight bullying in schools in a partnership that officials say marks the first of its kind in the country.

School resource officers, who are members of the police department stationed in Suffolk schools, will work with more than 100 gay/straight alliance organizations in schools to help resolve bullying and harassment issues. Officials say it will allow students to get help in real time.

Students experiencing bullying can call the LGBT Networking Bullying Hotline, which is headquartered in Woodbury and Bay Shore. The call center then deploys a Suffolk County police school resource officer to address the problem.

MORE: Suffolk officials announce partnership with LGBT group

"They'll be able to…immediately go and talk to the student, providing them with a safe person that will be their advocate and make sure the bullying will stop. And those that are committing the bullying receive the punishment they should get," says David Kilmnick, president and CEO of the LGBT Network.

It's welcome news for students like Bing Johnson, who says he and fellow LGBT classmates have experienced verbal bullying at William Floyd High School. He says transgender students bear the brunt of it -- with yelling, physical attacks and having things thrown at them. He says the partnership will be a big help.

"People are actually helping us now, we have people who will stand up for us," says Johnson. "And that's something we've always needed."

Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart says the department will begin hosting forums for residents this fall focused on diversity and LGBT rights.

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