Did you know that the young women and men who are entering their freshman year in high school or college this year will be the graduating class of 2020?! Pretty crazy to think about, isn’t it?
What will you have accomplished by the year 2020?
Speaking of school, the U.S. Department of Education released a guide in January 2015 called “Human Trafficking in America’s Schools,” which adequately addresses the pervasive issue impacting our youth all across the nation.
Besides clearly defining what child exploitation is and what it looks like in both labor and sex trafficking form, it also highlights risk factors/indicators and lists red flags that may point to a child victim of labor or sexual exploitation.
It also offers suggestions on policies, procedures and protocols for schools to adopt, citing very specific reasons why awareness training of all school personnel and having a response infrastructure in place is crucial to the individual victim and overall health and safety of the students within the campus, giving very general examples on how to develop such a system.
But I have to say, what I liked most about the guide was the Dept. of Education unmistakenly calling us out – the community as a whole – to step up and claim our responsibility in protecting our youth. Instead of paraphrasing, I’ll just let you read exactly what they said:
“Child trafficking is not solely a school issue; it is a community issue that impacts schools. Therefore, it is recommended that all members of the community play a role in protecting students.
To prevent the trafficking of children, community members first need to admit the problem exists and then commit to educating other community members and increasing awareness of the impact of the problem. Standing up to child trafficking also means equipping leaders with the resources to have an authentic dialog about the issue—including demand—in their neighborhoods, jurisdictions, constituencies, or school districts and giving these leaders the tools to work toward solutions.
A best practice is when all members of a school campus, along with parents and community partners, have a shared commitment to work together to prevent crimes and protect victims. This collaboration is critically important to student success and will lead to a safer, healthier school culture.”
So you see, your involvement in this issue is critical and essential! You matter and you can make a difference!
Most of the time, what children need is an adult they can trust, feel safe and comfortable with to just be there FOR them – to listen to them without judgment, with an open-mind and heart to help.
In the words of a 16-year old commercially sexually exploited child (CSEC) survivor,
“I had a feeling that my teacher knew something was wrong in my life. I would notice her looking at me…almost like she wanted to say something to me. I wanted to open up to her, but I was afraid she would judge me. I was afraid that she wouldn’t understand.”
And so, I challenge you. I challenge you to take the time and the knowledge that you’ve learned about human trafficking’s debilitating effects on youth/adults and put it to work!
Become that loud constant voice of concern in the ears of your neighborhood’s school staff, administrators, parents and neighbors.
Become that trusted adult with open-arms, an open-mind, and open-heart to guide, protect, and prevent our youth from being taken advantage of.
If we don’t stay consistent in the dialog of this ongoing pervasive issue, we will lose more children to traffickers looking to exploit and prey upon the most vulnerable, who happen to be the ones who most need our support and our voices of justice.
As you know, one of the most frequently recruited spots for pimps are bus stops. And now some of them are equipped with human trafficking awareness billboards across the valley, like the one below!
>> Have you seen them around town? If so, snap a picture where in town you saw them, share and tag us on Twitter @CongoJusticeLV.
Although the aforementioned guide specifically addresses typical American schools, it is also important to bring attention to the fact that sometimes the children who have been exploited have a difficult time reentering the school system due to a myriad of factors – lack of supporting administration and staff, bullying, marginalization/isolation, etc. and thus, resort to alternative schools to further complete their education.
That said, Center 4 Peace will be starting an alternative education pilot program for students who are not thriving in the usual school system. For more information, please call 702-463-6929 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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