Sex trafficking training should be mandated in schools

February 26, 2019

 Tomorrow, the TX House Committee on Public Education will be discussing H.B. No. 403 by Thompson, Senfronia (Relating to training requirements for a member of the board of trustees and the superintendent of an independent school district regarding sexual abuse, human trafficking, and other maltreatment of children.)    I wrote a letter of testimony in support of this bill and wanted to share some highlights here:

 

When my daughter was trafficked in 2015, she was 16 years old and attending a public school.  A friend who attended the same school introduced her to her traffickers.  The traffickers dropped her off or picked her up from school numerous times. 

 

When I discovered my daughter’s photos on Backpage.com and informed the police, I also discovered photos of another victim who I believed was a classmate.   As I worked with law enforcement on a plan to rescue my daughter safely, I visited the school counselor to make contact with the other student’s mother.  I asked for her help in contacting the other girl’s mother so she could identify her daughter and reach out to law enforcement.  I remember clearly the terrified expression on her face as I explained sex trafficking to her and pushed hard for her assistance in getting the information I had to the other girl’s mother.  Over a three-year period, five girls were victims of sex trafficking at the school; three separate and distinct cases.

 

No one at the school knew anything about trafficking in 2015 and when I returned to the school in 2017 to ask if administration would allow sex trafficking training with the students they quickly agreed.  The assistant principal couldn’t look at me directly as he spoke of his feelings of guilt, for not knowing, for not seeing what was happening right in front of him.

 

Last year I met with a principal and counselor at a public middle school who had been exposed to sex trafficking by a female student whose family had been paying off past debt by allowing her to be trafficked.  When I met with the principal and the counselor in preparation for the upcoming student and parent training sessions the principal said, “My board may fire me for bringing you into the school to talk about trafficking but I feel I have to educate our families and our students.”

 

We must push for more awareness and training in organizations who can help in the identification of victims.  Schools are the logical place to reach our youth....  Get out there, get talking, keep the conversation going!

 

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