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.
“Trafficking statistics are often unreliable due to a variety of factors, including the clandestine nature of the industry and underreporting.”
–United Nations Population Fund
Historically, law enforcement and probation departments across the nation have been the primary systems addressing the complex needs of survivors of child sex trafficking. Through sting operations, crackdowns on gangs, and curfew sweeps, a law enforcement agency may be the first agency to interact with a sex trafficking victim. Today, child welfare systems and runaway and homeless youth programs are increasingly elevating their responses to child trafficking. It is strongly recommended that each community develop cross-system mechanisms and infrastructure for collaboration among public agencies and other stakeholders, while building upon the structures, processes, and relationships already in place.
Schools should partner with their school boards, service providers, governmental agencies, and local law enforcement partners to identify the nature, scope, and prevalence of child trafficking in their communities. By getting other partners involved, schools will create safer campuses and increase the chances for academic, social, and psychological student success. These same partners should work collaboratively to develop a comprehensive prevention awareness program targeted at students and parents, alerting them to the nature and danger of child trafficking, as well as to develop protocols for dealing with the crime and providing services to victims.
Some pragmatic concerns contribute to most communities’ ambivalence in mounting an aggressive child trafficking prevention effort. Increased awareness and provision of services are invaluable, but there are limited resources to support child trafficking victims and other at-risk students. How should education, social services, and, above all, safety for a student who has been trafficked and safety for their friends, classmates, and community members be balanced? How should schools evaluate whether their responses are effective? These are questions that school districts need to confront as they develop responses to the crime. Although comprehensive solutions take time, educators need immediate options for students involved in child trafficking.