Slavery does not exist only in history books. Several million people are, today, victims of a modern-day form of slavery called human trafficking.
Many of these victims are children.
According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 1 in 6 of the 18,500 reports of runaways the organization received in 2016 were likely sex trafficking victims.
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. This month, help your community join the nation in making a commitment to assist victims of human trafficking and to combat it in all its forms.
What Can Your School Do?
School should be place where all students feel comfortable and safe. To fight the problem of child trafficking, school personnel and administrators need to:
- Understand how human trafficking affects schools.
- Recognize signs of possible child trafficking.
- Develop policies, protocols and partnerships to address and prevent the exploitation of children.
Training for staff should include:
- Risk factors for vulnerable children
- Signs and indicators of exploitation and trafficking
- The victim-centered approach
- Best practices for interacting with victims
School personnel should never try to address the complex issue of child trafficking alone. An effective response requires a clearly defined course of action and the support of child protective services, law enforcement, social services and community-based service providers.
Learn more about the effect human trafficking has on American schools from the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments.
Knowing the Difference Can Make a Difference
Although they sometimes occur together, human trafficking and human smuggling are different crimes.
Human Smuggling: Facilitating, transporting or attempting to transport someone across an international border illegally, either clandestinely or through deception (e.g., by using fraudulent documents)
Human Trafficking: Using physical or psychological means to hold another person in servitude against his or her will (i.e., slavery), typically for sex or for labor
Child trafficking is common in the following industries:
- Commercial sex
- Forced begging
- Au pairs or nannies
- Restaurant work
- Hair and nail salons
- Agricultural work
- Drug sales and cultivation
Find out about the common types of human trafficking from Polaris.
The Eyes of the Community Can Protect the Vulnerable
Everyone in your school community – from administrators, teachers and bus drivers to food service staff and parents – can play a role in helping child victims of human trafficking if they know what to look for and how to respond.
Signs of Sex Trafficking
- An older or controlling “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”
- Frequently running away from home
- Social isolation from friends and family
- Drug addiction (this may seem like just bad behavior)
- References to frequent travel to other cities
- Bruises or other signs of physical trauma
- Coached or rehearsed responses to questions
- Sudden change in behavior, relationships or material possessions
- More than one mobile phone
- Hotel keys and many fast-food receipts
- Tattoos or burns displaying the name or moniker of the trafficker
Signs of Forced Labor
- Being unpaid, paid very little or only through tips
- Working without a school-authorized work permit or working outside permitted hours for students
- Owing a large debt and being unable to pay it off
- Not being in control of his or her own money
- Living with an employer or having an employer listed as his or her caregiver
- Living in poor conditions or with many people in a cramped space
- Wanting to quit a job but not being allowed to
Join the Fight: Take the Next Step
The Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation offers toolkits to help communities and organizations engage members in ending sexual exploitation.
National Human Trafficking Hotline
Report Suspected Human Trafficking