by Karen Karpinski, Director of Education
End Slavery Tennessee has developed some great prevention programs to empower children and teens, through education, to remain safe in a sometimes dangerous world, to be able to recognize a trafficker operating within their peer group, and to help minors to make better decisions. We are working even harder to improve these programs and to provide them to more and more minors, and we have had some recent successes getting these program into local organizations that serve children and teens as well as into some high schools in our area. However, we need to increase these efforts and bring these messages to a larger audience.
The U.S. Department of Justice indicates that the only statistic going down is the age of the victims. That is evidenced by the age of some of the survivors we are serving.
Many minor victims of sex trafficking are students in Tennessee schools. School administrators and staff need to be made aware that cases of child trafficking are being reported throughout our state. No community —urban, rural, or suburban; school, socioeconomic group, or student demographic— is immune.
Schools can and should be safe places for students, and even more so for some students whose lives are threatened by instability and lack of safety. School personnel are well positioned to identify and report suspected abuse and refer students to services, actions that can prevent trafficking and even save lives. Everyone who is part of a child’s school —administrators, teachers, bus drivers, resource officers, and other school community members— has the potential to be advocates for child victims of human trafficking. But first, they must learn the indicators of the crime, its red flags, and how to respond when a student is an apparent victim or being groomed for trafficking. End Slavery Tennessee is uniquely qualified to provide this kind of training to schools.
I encourage you to reach out to all school personnel in your personal sphere of influence and plead for this training. No child should be trafficked because a school did not recognize the signs and therefore did nothing to protect him or her.