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Student Assistance Services Rolls Out New Anti-Bullying Resources

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By Nora Lowe

Students, parents and school personnel have another resource to seek out to help combat the scourge of bullying.

The Tarrytown-based Student Assistance Services (SAS) Corporation, a nonprofit organization that provides various programs and support for students, launched a new suite of resources on June 1.

SAS’ new Adolescent Counseling and Bullying Prevention Resource Center, the first of its kind in Westchester, provides direct support to students, parents and educators seeking advice on how to properly resolve a bullying situation. There are over-the-phone and in-person consultation options available.

The resource center is accessible to public, private and charter schools in the county, and registered SAS counselors who are stationed at many schools are available to help.

The program is free for Westchester County residents. It is being funded by a two-year $125,000 grant from the Phelps Community Corporation.

Services include a new anti-bullying hotline and queries may be e-mailed as well.

Angela Alvarado, the SAS counselor at Fox Lane High School said the center will help spotlight the critical issue of emotional well-being.

“The helpline will be a great resource for teens, families and schools,” Alvarado said.

The center also offers professional training and staff development opportunities where participants can learn about bullying and cyberbullying as well as helpful tips to remedy various situations.

Bullying Prevention and Mental Health Coordinator Kara Santucci said “every student, has the right to feel safe, valued and respected at school.” When that sense of security is breached, students, parents and educators are all free to reach out to SAS.

“Let’s say a parent knows that their child is being bullied and they see a change in behavior. Their child becomes withdrawn, and they’re not sure really what to do,” Santucci said of one example of when the resource center can be contacted.

If an educator isn’t sure how to resolve a teasing situation without drawing too much attention to the pupil in question could be another situation. Staff at the resource center are trained to offer assistance in dealing with complex dynamics, she said.

Plus, the center is meeting a critical need, especially in the aftermath of a pandemic.

“Students feel isolated, they’ve missed out on opportunities to socialize and they really do need to feel connected,” Santucci pointed out.

She said that assistance isn’t just for the victims. Counseling is also open to witnesses and those exhibiting bullying tendencies. Many perceived aggressors are actually struggling with personal challenges, provoking problematic behavior, Santucci said.

Therefore, by addressing bullying now means preventing potentially worse threats down the road.

“Students who are targets of bullying…are more likely to engage in riskier behavior,” Santucci said. “They are at a higher risk for substance abuse…depression, anxiety.”

Anyone in need of assistance can call the helpline at 662-855-9464 or e-mail bullyinghelpline@sascorp.org from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Anyone seeking help can expect a response within 24 hours. The center’s website is expected to be unveiled shortly.

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