New Anti-Trafficking Guide Helps Schools Become Safe Havens

Silhouettes of school-aged young people.

Schools can be an important ally for raising students' awareness about human trafficking and taking action to prevent trafficking of young people. For educators getting involved in trafficking prevention, the U.S. Department of Education's National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments offers "Human Trafficking in America's Schools," a comprehensive guide.

Suggesting that "Schools can and should be safe havens for students, and even more so for some students whose lives are otherwise characterized by instability and lack of safety or security," the guide offers advice on how to foster a safe environment for all students. Tips in the guide include:

  • Educators must remember that a child involved in prostitution should always be treated as a victim. Criminal responsibility rests with the trafficker.
  • Wanting to take risks, feeling misunderstood by parents, and seeking romantic relationships can increase girls’ susceptibility to the recruitment tactics of sex traffickers or pimps. If a school staff member—teacher, bus driver, administrator, counselor, or cafeteria worker—notices a student who shows signs of potential trafficking, the first rule is to always pay attention.
  • The symptoms of trauma can impact the learning experience of the student and may result in problematic behaviors at school, such as aggression.
  • Once a child victim is identified, it is imperative that all responding providers coordinate intervention and support for the victim and ensure minimal impact on other students.

Many of the suggestions in the guide are applicable outside schools, in settings such as youth-serving agencies, health clinics, and social service programs.

Read "Human Trafficking in America's Schools."

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