Bill takes aim at stopping sex trafficking at schools, training educators how to identify victims
East County News Service
July 12, 2017 (San Diego) -- The House of Representatives passed legislation by U.S. Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego) to combat sex trafficking. The Empower Educators to Prevent Trafficking Act (H.R. 2268) was included in a package of legislation - The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Protection Act (H.R. 2200).
“Far too often, it is our children who fall victim to the horror of human trafficking. We must do everything we can to stop this injustice,” said Davis, a senior member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. “Advocates and survivors are always telling me that it is important to punish traffickers, but we also need to focus on prevention. With the passage of this bill, our schools can join the resistance in the fight against trafficking. Armed with knowledge, students and teachers can join the battle lines against this injustice of modern day slavery.”
Davis’s bill would authorize grants to help school districts establish a program if one doesn’t already exist, expand an existing program, and receive continued support for their efforts to train school staff.
These programs will train a variety of school employees, including teachers, counselors, campus security, nurses, and administrators. The programs will address:
- Indicators that an individual is a victim or potential victim of sex or labor trafficking.
- Options and procedures for referring students to information on trafficking and legal, social, and health services for victims of trafficking.
- Reporting requirements and procedures, according to federal and state law.
- Training students on how to avoid becoming victims of labor and sex trafficking.
Schools will also develop a plan, in consultation with local law enforcement, to ensure the safety of employees and students when instances of trafficking are reported.
The grant program will prioritize qualified applications from school districts operating in what the FBI has designated “High-Intensity Child Sex Trafficking Areas”—San Diego, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Dallas, Detroit, Tampa, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, New York City, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis. The underground sex trafficking economy generates an estimated $810 million in annual revenues for criminals, the city of San Diego reports.
Currently, federally funded programs provide similar training to local law enforcement, social workers, child welfare officials, first responders, healthcare workers, and various other professionals who may come into contact with trafficking victims.
Schools can be a prime recruiting site for sex traffickers. Experts have told Davis that teacher education is a missing piece in the coordinated efforts to stop sex trafficking.
Teachers and other school employees are particularly well positioned to recognize and respond to signs of trafficking in their students, and with proper training, they can be an important line of defense in the fight against child trafficking.
Each year, there are an estimated eight to eleven thousand victims of sex trafficking in San Diego County. The average age of entry into sex trafficking is 14 to 15.
The Empower Educators to Prevent Trafficking Act has been endorsed by the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force, the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, Polaris Project, the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, and ECPAT-USA.