Florida Board of Education Starts Statewide Effort to Prevent Child Trafficking

This week, the state government continued its efforts against child trafficking as Florida’s Board of Education unanimously backed a new rule to have K-12 students instructed in child trafficking prevention.

“With this approval, Florida will be the first state in the nation to address the need for instruction in child trafficking prevention. The new rule also establishes procedures for school districts to plan and document delivery of the required instruction,” the Department of Education noted before showcasing the high stakes involved. “Florida is third in the nation for numbers of reported cases of human trafficking, and the average age of trafficked youth is 11 to 13 years old. In 2018, there were 767 human trafficking cases reported in Florida. Of those cases, 149 were minors. Up to 70 percent of sex trafficking and exploitation begins with predators connecting with youth online. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one out of eight endangered runaway youth is likely a victim of human trafficking.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had weighed in this week on the broader problem of human trafficking, stressed the importance of cracking down on child trafficking.

“Tragically, human trafficking is an epidemic in our country,” said DeSantis. “Children of all ages need to know and understand the hazards of human trafficking and how to protect themselves from dangerous predators.”

“Our number one priority is the safety of Florida’s students. It is never too early to learn about prevention, safety and safely using technology,” said Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. “I thank Governor DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis for their commitment to ensuring every child has the tools necessary to identify and address these important issues.”

According to the rule passed by the board, by December 1 of each year, every school district across the state must have an implementation plan submitted to Tallahassee and on their website which needs to have the following:

The methods in which instruction will be delivered for each grade level;
The professional qualifications of the person delivering instruction; and
A description of the materials and resources utilized to deliver instruction.

School districts will be required to submit how their plans were implemented to Tallahassee by July 1.

Geoff Rogers, the CEO and one of the founders of  the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking, applauded the new rule.

“Florida continues to lead the nation in the fight against human trafficking by being the first state in the country to mandate every student in K-12 to receive Child Trafficking Prevention and require every school in the state to declare itself a Child Trafficking Free Zone,” Rogers said.

“We hope more states will follow their lead as we seek to put an end to this terrible crime in the United States,” Rogers added.

“While there is no standard profile of a child-trafficking victim, several risk factors indicate that certain children are more susceptible. Reports show that traffickers often target children and youths with a history of sexual abuse, dating violence, low self-esteem and minimal social support,” the Education Department noted. “A safe learning environment is proven to be imperative for overall student success, and this success is threatened when students face exploitation and violence. Training on risk factors for vulnerable children, the signs and indicators of exploitation and trafficking, and the victim-centered approach should be provided to all staff working with students.”

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

 

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