“I didn’t care about school at all. In fact, I was so uncomfortable there...so afraid that people were talking about me and telling others about what I was doing...I was constantly getting into fights. This gave me a way to keep people scred of me and get myself a suspension so that I could leave school.”
–Child trafficking survivor, 18 years old
The shared priorities and beliefs that motivate a school community have an effect on student learning, achievement, and behavior. A safe learning environment is proven to be imperative for overall student success, and this success is sacrificed on a campus where there is exploitation and violence.
Due to the abuse associated with child trafficking, many victims experience severe physical, emotional, and psychological trauma. The symptoms of trauma can impact the learning experience of the student and may result in problematic behaviors at school, such as aggressive behavior. Bad behavior can be, but is not necessarily, a key warning sign of an abusive background and may provide a clue to possible victimization. Of particular note for educators is research that has shown a correlation between the human trafficking of children and school-related problems, including learning disabilities.7
“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.”
–Child sex trafficking survivor, 16 years old
In order to build healthy learning environments, educators must be knowledgeable about the signs, such as signs of child trafficking, and the steps to take when behaviors at school are out of order. 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.
7 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. (2009). Human trafficking into and within the United States: A review of the literature. Washington, DC: Author. Available at http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/07/humantrafficking/litrev/