State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson recognized National Human Trafficking Awareness Day on Wednesday and urged all Californians to learn how they can take action to stop this international crime.
“Large cities, small communities, and now schools have become prime hunting ground for human traffickers,” Torlakson said. “All school community members must become educated and aware of the warning signs of trafficking. School districts should have policies in place to prevent and intervene in this criminal activity.”
Schools sites are a prime target for recruiting trafficking victims, according to a 2015 report by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students. The report also mentioned that traffickers often prey upon students traveling to and from school.
California experienced the nation’s highest number of reported incidents of human trafficking in 2015—with one-third being minors—according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
A public-private collaboration of non-profit organizations, state agencies, and local government representatives recently launched Prevention Organized to Educate Children on Trafficking (PROTECT), a program designed to reduce the vulnerability of the state’s children to human trafficking. PROTECT is being rolled out to 35 rural California counties over the next three years.
“This type of training and exposure can help increase awareness among teachers, bus drivers, students, school administrators, and school staff and can potentially save the life of a child targeted by a trafficker,” Torlakson said.
The California Department of Education is discussing adding Human Trafficking as a topic in future student health curriculum.
The United States Senate designated January 11 as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in 2007. In 2010, a Presidential Proclamation declared January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Month.
For more information about the PROTECT program, visit the Rural County Representatives of California Web site at rcrcnet.org. For information regarding human trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888.