Impact on the Students and the Learning Environment

Shared priorities and beliefs influence the climate of a school community and have an effect on student learning, achievement, and behavior. A safe learning environment is imperative for overall student success, but overall student safety is jeopardized when some students are being exploited and victimized, particularly if the trafficker is using a student to recruit other students or is connected to student social circles.

Because of 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 students and may manifest as depression, anxiety, difficulty learning, aggression, or truancy.37 Disruptive behavior or sudden changes in academic performance should be considered a red flag that points to an underlying problem. If the student has risk factors for trafficking, or if there are clear indications of trafficking, then a specially trained school counselor or licensed clinical social worker should investigate, protect the student from further harm, report as required by state law or regulation, and determine whether there are campus-wide impacts.


  1. Palines, P., Rabbitt, A., Pan, A., Nugent, M., & Ehrman, W. (2020). Comparing mental health disorders among sex trafficked children and three groups of youth at high-risk for trafficking: A dual retrospective cohort and scoping review. Child Abuse & Neglect, 100. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2019.104196