If a student in your school was a victim of child trafficking, would educators there recognize it? Do they know the warning signs?
It’s more common and more difficult to identify than many people realize, experts say.
The U.S. Department of Education released a guide this week to help educators recognize, respond to, and prevent cases of child trafficking—"modern day slavery” that “involves exploiting a child for the purpose of forced labor, commercial sex, or both.” An estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked worldwide, the agency said, and it’s not uncommon in the United States.
“School personnel are uniquely positioned to identify and report suspected abuse and connect students to services—actions that can prevent trafficking and even save lives,” the Education Department said in a statement. “Everyone who is part of the school community—administrators, teachers, bus drivers, maintenance personnel, food service staff, resource officers, and other school community members—has the potential to be an advocate for child victims of human trafficking.”
The guide, released during Human Trafficking Awareness Month, can be downloaded as a PDF or viewed online.
“Few crimes are more abhorrent than child trafficking, and few crimes are more challenging for communities to recognize and address,” the guide says. “For many people, the reality of trafficking in their community is difficult to comprehend, let alone confront. For educators and school personnel, the reality of these crimes and the severity of their impact are cause for a call to action.”
The guide explains the difference between sex trafficking and labor trafficking, and it explains how traffickers groom and recruit children.
It includes a sample school district policy for responding to suspected trafficking. It also busts myths. For example, not all traffickers are adults; students have been arrested for pimping other students.
The guidance also lists risk factors and indicators of specific forms of trafficking. Here are a few warning signs the guide lists for sex trafficking:
- a sudden change in attention to personal hygiene
- tattoos (a form of branding) displaying the name or moniker of a trafficker, such as “daddy”
- hyperarousal or symptoms of anger, panic, phobia, irritability, hyperactivity, frequent crying, temper tantrums, regressive behavior, and/or clinging behavior
- hypoarousal or symptoms of daydreaming, inability to bond with others, inattention, forgetfulness, and/or shyness
- an inability to attend school on a regular basis and/or unexplained absences
- frequently running away from home
- references made to frequent travel to other cities
And here are some warning signs for labor trafficking:
- not being in control of his or her own money
- living with an employer or having an employer listed as a student’s caregiver
- a desire to quit a job but not being allowed to do so
Image from Human Trafficking in America’s Schools.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.