The end of the American Civil War held the promise of a new life for millions of the country’s citizens. President Abraham Lincoln called it “a new birth of freedom.” Unfortunately, 150 years after the end of that devastating war, we continue to struggle with human slavery in the form of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is the control and exploitation of others for the purpose of compelled labor and/or commercial sex acts. It is considered one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world, with traffickers generating billions of dollars in profits each year by victimizing millions of people. Contrary to popular belief, this is not just a problem in other countries. Human trafficking is a reality in communities across America and, increasingly, we are seeing that schools are targets for recruitment. Sadly, our most vulnerable students are at the highest risk for victimization.
We, as educators, play a unique role in the lives of our students and can learn the signs and indicators of trafficking to join in the fight against this form of modern-day slavery. It is imperative that we learn to identify the signs of trafficking and what steps to take when an incidence is suspected. For more information on the indicators that school staff and administrators should be aware of, and how to report potential incidents, please check out the Department of Education Office of Safe and Healthy Student’s Fact Sheet on Domestic Human Trafficking.
President Obama has proclaimed January to be National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. In addition to the fact sheet above, you can find human trafficking prevention resources from the Polaris Project, the U.S. State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI.
Eve Birge is an education program specialist in the Office of Safe and Healthy Students