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Victims of Crime
New Jersey Releases Guidelines for Preventing Human Trafficking in Schools
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The New Jersey Department of Education recently released Guidelines for Schools on the Prevention of Human Trafficking of Students. The purpose of these guidelines is to help schools increase awareness of human trafficking, to recognize when a student is a potential victim, and to prevent future trafficking. The guidelines include information about human trafficking in New Jersey and lay out a three-step prevention plan.

Human trafficking in New Jersey

Human trafficking occurs when someone uses force, fraud, or coercion to get another person to engage in labor or commercial sex. When someone under age 18 engages in commercial sex—even without force, fraud, or coercion—it is considered human trafficking because minors cannot consent to commercial sex. Densely populated New Jersey is close to major cities such as New York and Philadelphia, and I-95 runs through the state, making it a hotspot for human trafficking.

For students and school staff to understand human trafficking, they need to understand the factors that increase its risk, the ways a trafficker may recruit, and common behaviors of trafficked students. Check out the table below for more information.

Examples of Risk Factors

Examples of Recruitment Methods

Examples of Students’ Responses

History of abuse
Lack of social support
Disability status
Immigration status
Low self-esteem
Mental illness or substance abuse
Involvement in the child welfare or juvenile justice system
Homelessness
Poverty

Grooming (establishing a relationship with the young person)
Coercion (threats, fear, manipulation)
Sextortion (threats to expose sexual photos)
Threats to have young person and their family deported
Fraud (false promises)
Force (physical violence) 

Lying or inconsistent stories
Noticeably older or controlling partners
Working unusually long hours
Suddenly having expensive possessions
Struggling with mental or physical health
Decreasing self-esteem
Fears for their safety or their loved ones’ safety

Three-step prevention plan

The state’s guidelines provide a three-step plan to help schools prevent human trafficking.

Step One—Education

Teachers will receive two to four hours of training on human trafficking, while students will receive at least two trainings per year consisting of age-appropriate information about human trafficking and tips for helping a struggling friend. The interactive student trainings will include discussions about trafficking and social change. Teachers will be included in this part of the training and parents will be able to attend. The school will send handouts home with students containing information on human trafficking, common responses parents may notice if a child has been trafficked, and how to connect with nearby resources.

Step Two—Staying safe

Social-emotional learning is a process that will help students build skills to recognize and cope with their emotions, use empathy, and make responsible decisions. It focuses on helping students build healthy relationships with peers by teaching them how to handle conflict and work in teams. Developing these skills can lessen students’ risk of human trafficking and other violence. They’ll also learn how to use digital devices and the internet safely and responsibly.

Step Three—Student involvement

Step 3 of the prevention plan uses student empowerment at the middle and high school levels. Students will become actively involved in speaking out against human trafficking and creating change within their schools and communities. This approach will help students better recognize and support peers who may be struggling, and make trafficked students more likely to come forward and ask for help. Empowerment activities can include creating posters, making public service announcements during school hours, hosting events about human trafficking, or spreading information at after-school activities. Any activity selected should be sensitive to different cultures and to people who may have experienced trauma. Schools can contact local anti-trafficking agencies for feedback to make sure the planned activities or ideas are appropriate.

A plan for recognizing and responding to human trafficking

The state guidelines recommend that schools create a uniform plan to help school personnel recognize when a student is being trafficked and how to respond. This plan should make the well-being of potential student victims the most important part of the school’s response to human trafficking. All school staff should be trained in the plan, and parents, law enforcement, and anti-trafficking organizations should be involved to make sure students stay safe.

For more information, additional community resources, and tool kits, or to review the guidelines in their entirety, visit Human Trafficking Resources (from the New Jersey Department of Education) or email SafeSupportive [email protected]. ​​

4/26/2022