Assemblywoman Angela V. McKnight has introduced legislation to prepare public school teachers in New Jersey to help students who may be victims of child trafficking.
The bill (A-5024) would establish the Child Trafficking Awareness Pilot Program in the Department of Education to train school district staff on how to identify victims of child trafficking.
“Sadly, many human trafficking victims in our country are first targeted when they are in middle school, at an age when they may be beginning to gain independence but also are still vulnerable to exploitation by adults with bad intentions,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “Increasing awareness among educators can help protect New Jersey’s children.”
Under the legislation, the commissioner of the Department of Education would develop and administer a three-year pilot program to train public school teachers and staff on ways to identify and respond to child trafficking. The commissioner is to select two districts in each of the northern, central and southern regions of the state to participate in the program and seek a cross section of school districts from urban, suburban and rural areas.
The program would include information that promotes a greater understanding of: risk factors that make children more susceptible to becoming a victim of child trafficking, traffickers’ recruitment methods, behavioral indicators that a child may be a victim of child trafficking and proper reporting of suspected cases of child trafficking to school administrators and law enforcement.
“If they know the signs to look out for, the teachers and school staff in our state will be better equipped to keep children safe,” said McKnight. “With caring adults working together to form a network of supervision and support, we can help end child trafficking in New Jersey.”
At the end of the three-year program, the commissioner would submit a report to the governor and the legislature with information on the implementation of the pilot program, including a recommendation on the feasibility of implementing the program on a statewide basis.
The measure was referred to the Assembly Education Committee.