The Phoenix Flyer

What should schoolchildren know about human trafficking?

By: - April 1, 2019 3:19 pm
Florida Phoenix

Florida has been in the spotlight over human trafficking, in part because of the recent trafficking and prostitution scandal that led to charges against prominent, wealthy men – and lawmakers want to make sure young people are aware of the dangers.

That means students in public schools should be educated about the warning signs of human trafficking, according to lawmakers pushing legislation on the issue.

The idea is to include human trafficking in comprehensive health education programs in schools, to ensure students can protect themselves and others from dangerous predators.

If some parents feel the material is objectionable, they can have their students opt out, with written permission.

“This bill will shine the spotlight on the darkness of human trafficking,” said State Rep. Patricia Williams, who represents part of Broward County and is  the ranking Democrat on the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee.

Republican State Rep. Rene Plasencia, representing parts of Brevard and Orange counties, also is a sponsor of the House bill.

Colleagues unanimously approved the legislation on Monday, and the Senate version will be up for consideration Tuesday in the Senate Education Committee.

Lawmakers, sponsors and advocates also will be holding a press conference Tuesday to drum up support for the issue.

Democratic State Sen. Perry Thurston, Jr., representing part of Broward County, is the Senate bill’s sponsor.

The U.S. Department of Justice defines human trafficking as modern-day slavery. It is  — “a crime that involves compelling or coercing a person to provide labor or services, or to engage in commercial sex acts.  The coercion can be subtle or overt, physical or psychological.  Exploitation of a minor for commercial sex is human trafficking, regardless of whether any form of force, fraud, or coercion was used.”

For school-aged children, the warning signs of human trafficking could include terms used by traffickers; red flags indicating malicious intent toward a student; websites popular with traffickers, and details about how students can get help, according to a legislative analysis.

The Florida Department of Education provides training and resources for schools on the issue, and some — but not all — districts have already integrated human trafficking into its health programs. Those districts are Brevard, Broward, Miami-Dade, Duval, Hillsborough, Orange, Palm Beach and Pinellas counties, according to the legislative analysis.


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Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.