Educators key to 'community care' of children

Human trafficking is the fastest growing crime, not only around the world but in Nebraska as well - and educators can be key in recognizing and reporting signs and symptoms.  That’s why trafficking experts were invited to speak as the keynote Tuesday at the annual Lincoln Public Schools Leadership Conference, a beginning-of-school gathering for all the school district’s administrators held at Lincoln Northeast High School.

If you think this issue has not yet hit Lincoln, consider these numbers:  Out of the average 900 trafficking of minors ads per month on Nebraska’s five websites, an average 200 per month are based in Lincoln.

Glen Parks, Assistant Attorney General with the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, and Erin Aliano, Special Projects Coordinator at the Nebraska Alliance of Child Advocacy Centers, stressed that human trafficking victims are in our community and in our schools - and educators can help.

“You are a special resource. Sometimes you have a lot more pieces to the puzzle than our law enforcement or prosecutors. Kids feel safe with you so they tend to disclose to you because you have that rapport  and that relationship with them. School is their safe haven. This is where they feel safe,” Aliano said.

Remember:  One in six children reported missing in 2016 were likely victims of sex trafficking,  vulnerable because they have emergent needs like transportation, shelter, food and money. Other risk factors include children who are longing to belong to a group or don’t “fit in,” live in poverty or are homeless, survivors of child abuse, LGBTQ youth who may have been kicked out of their home or shunned by families, immigrants, or a child who lives in a home with substance abuse.

Traffickers can be someone the victim just met or a trusted adult in their life. Just as many women as men are identified as traffickers.

Possible indicators of human trafficking victims include:

  • Sudden changes in behavior, appearance, friends, interests, demeanor, and sexual behavior. Disoriented or confused or showing signs of mental or physical abuse like unexplained injuries.
  • Students who act fearful, timid or submissive.
  • They may have a close relationship with a significantly older unrelated adult, or have claims of an older boyfriend or girlfriend,
  • They have unexplained school absences, truancy, or missing from care and other delinquent behavior.

LPS Security Director Joe Wright advised LPS employees who suspect or have questions about possible human trafficking victims - to contact either him or LPS Student Services.

“There’s a pretty big spectrum of what you might run into,” Wright said. “The response will be different for each case. With our continued partnerships with our advocates, our new partnership with the Attorney General’s office, the medical people, the county attorney’s office we are really well poised now that you are more sensitized to this topic to help children.”

Lincoln Public Schools health staff, counselors, social workers and school psychologists will also receive training this year in human trafficking recognition and response.

Parks closed:  “We just recruited you into this army as we try to address this across our state. There is not one tell tale sign that you will see. We want you to use your intuition.”

Published: July 25, 2017, Updated: July 25, 2017