by Karen Karpinski, Director of Education
Few crimes are more repugnant than child trafficking, and few crimes are more challenging for communities to recognize and address. Many find the reality of trafficking in their communities too difficult to comprehend. But for educators, school counselors and administrators, the reality of these crimes and their impact on our children should be a call to action.
Sex traffickers target children because of their vulnerability and gullibility, as well as market demand for young victims. Those who recruit minors into any form of commercial sex violate federal and state laws, even if there is no coercion or movement across state lines. The children at risk are not just high school students—studies demonstrate that pimps prey on young victims: 12-14 is the average age of entry into trafficking for a girl. Traffickers have been reported targeting their minor victims through telephone chat-lines, clubs, on the street, through friends, and at malls, as well as using girls to recruit other girls at schools and after-school programs.
Schools should be a safe haven for students, particularly for those whose lives are characterized by instability and lack of security. Every person who is part of a school community has the potential to be an advocate for child victims of human trafficking, but first they must learn the indicators of that crime, its warning signs and how to respond when a child is an apparent victim.
Fortunately, End Slavery Tennessee has been given the opportunity to address this issue at the Metro Davidson Social and Emotional Learning Conference on June 19. We will be provide those risk factors and indicators, what to do when they suspect trafficking, how and where recruitment occurs, the impact on a child’s learning, and will provide resources to educators. Supportive and trained educators can help uncover child domestic trafficking and can help mold the thoughts and attitudes of minors in the schools. Our prevention programs work with youth, not only empowering them with the knowledge to protect themselves, but giving them tools to educate their peers and know how to report suspected traffickers operating in their social circles. I am hopeful this opportunity will open the doors of our schools and help prevent one more innocent child from falling victim to this horrible crime.