Given the fact that Florida is in the top three states for human trafficking, Florida education officials want their schools to teach about child trafficking prevention with the hopes that “every school in Florida be a ‘child trafficking free zone.’”
The child trafficking rule (Rule 6A-1.094123) passed by the state Board of Education on 9/20/19 will implement that state-wide initiative and the state would then require school districts to report individual plans to the Department of Education every year by Dec. 1, 2019. The rule would go into effect on October 1, 2019 requiring all school districts to provide instruction in grades K-12 related to child trafficking prevention and awareness. School districts will begin to create plans and submit to the Department of Education each year. The goal is to raise awareness of how to recognize and understand human trafficking, as well as sexual abuse. Under the rule, school districts that fail to comply with the new mandate could be sanctioned. Furthermore, the measure would also task the Department of Legal Affairs with setting up a trafficking awareness campaign to help inform “children and other potentially vulnerable populations.”
Human trafficking prevention groups support the new legislation, Selah Freedom and The Selah Way Foundation, nonprofit organizations which were originally launched in Sarasota, Florida with offices in Chicago, LA and NY. These organizations applaud the new legislation and believe the mandate will save lives and prevent many children from becoming victims. Selah Freedom is leading the nation in the anti-sex trafficking movement and has been recognized for setting the lightest level of outcomes, standards and measurements in serving this population. Through four strong, proven programs, Selah Freedom is leading the nation in the fight to end sex trafficking. Their holistic approach reaches this demographic at every point possible - on the streets, in the jail system, and as a first point of contact for law enforcement, fellow NPOs, the FBI and United States Attorney's Office. They have created customized, cutting edge curricula for students K-12th grade and interveners which has proven to educate and empower them on this issue and equip them with practical ways to stay protected. The Selah Way Foundation, launched from the success of Selah Freedom, is the first of its kind that collaboratively brings together the nation's leading anti-sexual abuse and sex trafficking organizations to eradicate this crime.
CEO and Co-Founder of Selah Freedom/The Selah Way Foundation says, “The Selah Way Foundation and Selah Freedom applaud the State Education Department for their vision and leadership in the area of prevention for our own Florida children. The implementation of curricula for students will surely be a giant leap in helping to eradicate this horrific abuse in both Florida.”
Valerie Ellery will be appointed Florida Department of Education’s Human Trafficking Education Specialist, the first position of its kind in Florida, beginning on October 1, 2019. Ellery just returned from Washington DC where she presented on a panel at the McCain Institute's Safeguarding Children and Prevention Education Roundtable alongside of Federal, State, and national NGOs. Ellery is an International Educational Consultant with the Florida Department of Education and A21.org addressing anti-Human Trafficking, and a best-selling author of literacy books and educational resources for human trafficking prevention instruction. Ellery shared, “I look forward to working with Florida educators and students as we embark on implementing this new initiative in our schools. As an educator for over thirty years, I know schools have the ability to realize their human agency, which is the capacity to act in the world as an influencer rather than a bystander; students and teachers can become agents of change who are discontent with the present injustice and look forward with a vision of what could be. The cost of reaching one student through education is significantly less than the cost of providing services to a child who has been trafficked."
The new Florida legislation comes at the heels of a proposed Bill called “The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Training Act of 2019” introduced in Congress by Congressmen Vern Buchanan (R-Fl) and Alcee Hastings (D-FL) on 6/18/19 that would amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for the implementation of curricula for training students, teachers, and school personnel to understand, recognize, prevent, and respond to signs of human trafficking and exploitation in children and youth, and for other purposes. The Bill would provide $75 million in grant funding over a five year period to non-profit organizations and schools in cities in America.