Protect children from exploitation by recognizing the risk factors and warning signs, knowing how to respond, and supporting students who have been victimized.
Child exploitation can take many forms and affect young people of any background, demographic, or geographic location. Victimization can take place directly on school ground as well as through online or social media platforms, and victimized students may suffer physical, mental, and emotional trauma.
Schools are uniquely positioned to support students facing exploitation. Because of the regular interaction between educators and students, school personnel can help identify and report suspected cases of trafficking and exploitation and connect affected students to critical services.
Understanding the factors that make students vulnerable to exploitation and recognizing the warning signs is the first step in identifying potential victims. School leaders can provide training and resources on the risk factors and indicators of child exploitation so that teachers and school staff can recognize potential cases, as well as offer age-appropriate safety education programs for students and engage with parents to raise awareness of the issue. School districts should also establish and articulate clearly defined policies, protocols, and procedures, supported by collaboration with relevant local community and law enforcement partners, for school personnel to follow if cases of child exploitation are suspected or disclosed.
To counteract risk factors, identifying and building protective factors and a supportive school environment can help to prevent youth from exploitative and trafficking situations. Schools should also put in place appropriate campus security measures and screen visitors to school grounds and events. As well, providing children, teens, parents, and teachers with information regarding the potential dangers of online environments and how to stay safe online can help prevent many instances of child exploitation.