Human trafficking: How our schools are vulnerable

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March 23, 2015 by HCDE Communications

traffickingHuman trafficking is a topic that hits closer to the classroom than one might think.

A student affected by human trafficking may be one who is absent frequently. He might be quiet and withdrawn. She might show up to school hungry or tired. Although there is no equation for identification, educators often have a sixth sense for knowing when something isn’t right.

What is human trafficking? It is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transporting or procurement of a person for labor or services for the purpose of involuntary servitude, slavery or forced commercial sex acts.

The Center for Safe and Secure Schools of Harris County Department of Education is raising awareness about the issue of human trafficking through its membership. School security leaders heard about the topic at a March meeting at HCDE. As the leader of the Center, I am concerned that human trafficking of school-aged children is an emerging trend that must be on the radar screen of educators today.

Most importantly, educators must know about resources to learn more about the topic and to report it. The organization United Against Human Trafficking is a local organization that raises awareness about the problem.

Here are a few facts from Misa Nguyen, director of programs for United Against Human Trafficking:

  • Human trafficking is a serious federal crime with penalties up to life imprisonment and is a form of human slavery.
  • Those who recruit minors into commercial sexual exploitation (or prostitution) violate federal anti-trafficking laws, even if there is no force, fraud or coercion.
  • The Department of Justice has called Houston one of the most intense human trafficking jurisdictions in the country because of proximity to the border and access to major international air and sea ports and interstate roadways. Houston’s diverse labor sector and large immigrant population makes it particularly vulnerable to human trafficking.

Nguyen tells us that we all unknowingly play a role in human trafficking as consumers. She encourages educators to access Slavery Footprint to see the ramifications of our actions in the free world. Fair trade products, she says, can help regulate against human trafficking.

Your school district probably already has protocol in place to report suspected child human trafficking. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and the National Human Trafficking Resource Center are two reporting resources. Together we can make a difference.

Let us know if you have any questions or comments on this critical issue.

About the Blogger
Ecomet Burley, a 26-year administrator, is the new leader of the Center for Safe and Secure Schools. Established in 1999, the Center provides school safety and security training for school districts in greater Harris County.  Burley, the former superintendent of La Marque ISD, resides in Pearland with wife Frances, an elementary school principal. Education, Burley insists, is the primary and native language spoken in their home.



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