Teachers are on the front lines of the fight against human trafficking because they are one of the most important influences in their students’ lives. You have the opportunity to inspire, empower, and ultimately, look out for your students’ best interest. You may know to look out for signs of bullying on the playground or learning disabilities in the classroom, and even signs of an unsafe home environment, but do you know to look out for signs that your student is a victim of human trafficking?
At least 20.9 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking. It’s easy to think that human trafficking occurs in impoverished third world countries, but human trafficking happens all over the U.S., it is an issue that affects foreigners and Americans alike, as well as adults and children. Children as young as 12 years old are recruited into sex trafficking in the U.S. These victims endure unspeakable horrors, which is why this crime and human rights abuse is also referred to as modern slavery. Fundamentally, they have lost their freedom and are under the control of someone else.
Dialogue around slavery in the classroom is largely confined to a historical context, emphasizing hurdles overcome and progress achieved. However, slavery still exists. By being able to identify a few red flags, you can serve as agents of change in the lives of their students.
Teachers learn the steps to take to protect children from natural disasters and unidentified visitors at school, but what do you do to protect them from human trafficking?
It is first important to know what exactly human trafficking is, and the different forms it comes in, to be able to recognize the signs. Human trafficking is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to induce someone into commercial sex acts or for labor or services. Children under the age of 18 who have been induced into commercial sex are victims of sex trafficking.
To help you look out for your students, below are questions to ask to help identify if a student is a human trafficking victim (if you answer “yes” to two or more of these questions, you should seek out further assessment. Not all cases have these indicators, but they are a good starting point):
- Is the student exhibiting signs of physical, mental, or psychological abuse?
- Are the students’ caregivers inattentive?
- Is the student in any sort of debt to an employer?
- Is the student skipping excessive amounts of school?
- Is the student frequently tardy?
- Is the student performing severely under grade level?
- Does the student have a history of homelessness?
- Does the student move around often?
3) Online Activity
- Does the student have an online profile?
- Is this online profile explicitly sexual?
4) Relationship Status
- Is the student involved in a relationship with an older partner?
- Does this partner offer the student gifts?
- Does this partner often transport the student to and from school?
- Does this partner pick the student up from school before the school day is over?
5) Knowledge of the Commercial Sex Industry
- Does the student use lingo such as, “The Life,” or “The Game,” refer to a boyfriend as “Daddy,” use “The Track,” or “Stroll,” or refer to Johns as “Tricks” or “Dates?”
- Does the student wear inappropriate or suggestive clothing?
6) Lack of Control
- Does the student have few or no personal possessions?
- Is the student not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account?
- Is the student not in control of his/her own identification documents?
If you suspect one of your students is a victim of human trafficking, please call 1-888-373-7888 or 911 in case of an emergency. You can find more information through: Educator Human Trafficking Assessment Tool, our in-depth “Educators and Human Trafficking” review, and the Department of Education’s “Human Trafficking Fact-Sheet.”
Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, your watchful guidance is essential to combatting sex and labor trafficking of our nation’s children and youths.