Since 2000, there have been numerous State efforts to combat human trafficking following National and International efforts. While most states have been trying to combat the issue, there have been large differences in the scope, variety and impact of these efforts by different states. Ohio has been one of the more effective and forward-thinking states regarding human trafficking awareness. According to Ranade Janis, the former anti-trafficking coordinator for the state of Ohio,
“Ohio’s progress in combating trafficking is both exciting and sobering, more victims have access to justice, and more offenders are being punished because of a strong state response, a committed network of victim service providers and survivor advocates, and trained law enforcement. But this means more victims continue to emerge from the shadows of exploitation, more intensive law enforcement investigations are necessary to lock up traffickers, and more trauma-informed care is necessary to help survivors rebuild their lives.” (1)
Since the creation of the Governor’s Task Force, education seems to be seen as one of the best way to combat the issue. This includes mandated training on human trafficking for a variety of professionals. (2)
Ohio Laws on Education in Schools on Trafficking:
For example, according to a report on the education of teachers (key influencers) and students (3), in Ohio, prevention education training sessions for professionals such as teachers, counselors and nurses are state mandated. In June of 2013, the Ohio House passed Substitute House Bill 59, adding human trafficking to the required topics to be covered during the four-hour in-service training before the start of the school year. The law states:
“Each board shall incorporate training in school safety and violence prevention, including human trafficking content, into the in-service training required by division (A) of this section. For this purpose, the board shall adopt or adapt th
e curriculum developed by the department or shall develop its own curriculum in consultation with public or private or private agencies or persons involved in school safety and violence prevention programs.” (4)
Even though the state of Ohio is effectively run by the 88 counties instead of a strong, centralized government, every teaching professional, in every school, in every county, is required to have at least basic knowledge of the issue.
Requirements for Teaching Professionals:
While the training has to meet certain state criteria, there is no one training program for the state of Ohio. There is a sample program available for school districts to use on the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force (6) website, but they have the ability to choice which ever program they would like. According to the Ohio Department of Education, “school districts are able to customize their programming however they see or they may develop their own program in consultation with public or private agencies
or persons involved in child abuse prevention or intervention” (7)
This can inherently create problems in the education of teaching professionals. There is no way to monitor the information professionals are receiving, control for quality, or make sure the information is completely true, unbiased and based in human rights not law enforcement principles. While each program is required to include the criteria put out by the government, they are free to add or subtract any other information. This lack of cohesive knowledge even among those mandated to be trained on the issue, makes it even harder to combat the issue.
Review of Example Curriculum:
One such independent anti-trafficking training was created by The Medina County Coalition Against Human Trafficking. This training, entitled “Trafficking 101” was used by the Brunswick City School District in Brunswick, Ohio in the mandated training in August, 2017. (iii) This 36 slide PowerPoint has basic information such as: the definition of trafficking, labor trafficking vs sex trafficking, the definitions of fraud, coercion and force, as well as more in-depth information on “Who”, supply and demand, and recruitment. The presentation also had a large focus on legislation in Ohio, as well as a large amount of data on the numbers and scope of the problem.
There are a variety of things that this presentation does well when educating professionals. For example, the training emphasizes the different vulnerability factors that can lead to increased risk. According to Kamala Kempadoo, in an essay describing the changing perceptions on trafficking, often in the discussion on trafficking, attention is taken away “from the structural, underlying causes that give way to exploitation, structural violence, and the coercion of (migrant) workers.” (i) This training does a fairly good job at identifying structural problems that lead to trafficking; such as poverty, unemployment, troubled homes and runaways.
Another aspect of the presentation that seems particularly important for teaching professionals, was information on red flags. These red flags included things such as: physical abuse, sudden large increases in money or expensive items, a much older boyfriend, inconsistent stories, and excessive absences. The presentation suggested that when these signals appeared, the child should be monitored to see if they were in a possible trafficking situation. However, the presentation did not go on to suggest what one should do in these situations other than monitor. Nor was any constrictive advice given at the end. The “What Can YOU Do?” section ended with advice to: “Pick up a Human Trafficking Hotline Number Card, Recognize Red Flags, and Educate Others”.
While the presentation is effective regarding basic education and the emphasis of vulnerability factors and red flags, problems persist in the presentation. One such problem is the emphasis* on trafficking as “Modern Day Slavery”. According to an article in the Anti- Trafficking Review, there are problems with the re branding of global anti-trafficking efforts as ‘modern-day slavery’ abolitionism. These problems are three-fold, including the problems with legally defining ‘modern-day slavery’, implicitly raising the threshold as to what constitutes trafficking, and absolving the state of responsibility for the structures that allow trafficking to perpetuate. (ii)
Another issue with the presentation is its emphasis on legislation. While the information on the legality of the situation is important, more emphasis seemed to be placed on the law enforcement side than on the human rights side of the issue. There wasn’t any information on resources, victim services, or how to help (other than call the police). While school personnel are mandated to report such suspicions, the need to involve law enforcement before being able to get services goes against the ideas of a human rights approach to the issue.
*PowerPoint is in Works Cited Below
Dissemination of Information:
Another overlooked problem with this legislated training is that while education professionals are required to learn about trafficking, they are not required to pass on this information to their students. The education for students, while recommended, is completely voluntary. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office provides a manual with “guidelines, resources, and best practices to assist with development of anti-human trafficking youth education and outreach”. (7) According to this guide, “The authors of this guide do not recommend any single, approved curriculum. Every school is different. No two sets of teachers and students or situations are the same.” The Ohio Attorney General’s Office suggests NEST-approved curricula and resources when planning trafficking education in schools. NEST has a large number of vetted, approved curriculum that meet a variety of needs, for a variety of age groups. This NEST website has a comparison chart for all of the curriculum options. To view the comparison chart, click this link (8).
The number and variety of resources simply on this website are overwhelming. The mission in this one website is:
NEST equips teachers and youth leaders with age-appropriate curriculum and resources to educate and empower youth – teaching them how to avoid being trafficked, how to stand up for victims of trafficking, and how to spread the word in their communities so that sexual exploitation and human trafficking become a thing of the past. (9)
While this is a worthy goal, and definitely states the increased role of education not only as a preventative message, but also as the need for increased knowledge and understanding of this issue, the variety of information is staggering. There is no way to monitor all the information presented. Each presentation is taught from a different perspective, with different goals, and different biases. Often, the differentiation in information is rooted in the differentiation in information presented to the professionals and educators. When each school district has slightly different perceptions of the issue, and when their are so many different curriculum options for students, it is also impossible to control for re-victimization, the perpetuation of ideas regarding organized crime, etc. The lack of a cohesive program for both educators and students makes combating trafficking just that much harder.
An obvious way to solve these issues is to provide a specific curriculum for teaching professionals and students to follow. Unfortunately, as there are so many stakeholders in the development of such a program, especially in that each individual county wishes to to make their own curriculum function in a manner that supports the current programs and resources that are available in their own area, such an undertaking is next to impossible. Perhaps one way to begin taking small steps in making sure that the mandated information received by educators is of a good quality, is to have them take a small exam at the end of the training sessions to review the main ideas. These exams could be formulated, written and reviewed by a group of professionals in anti-trafficking work. A committee could be formed specifically to create a well thought-out, comprehensive test. This committee could be made up of people from various nonprofits, the various task forces in Ohio, law enforcement, lawyers and professors. By creating a diverse group with different perspectives and backgrounds, it might be possible for implicit biases and diverse information to be confronted in this group prior to making it available to those who will be disseminating it in the classroom.
Education on human trafficking is an incredibly important component in attempting to combat the issue. The more people that are appropriately educated, especially in areas such as -re-victimization, preconceptions, misinformation, stereotypes and a human rights centered approach to anti-trafficking work- the easier it will be to come up with creative, effective ways to stop human trafficking. School personnel are on the ‘front-lines’ every day and their awareness and understanding is an essential part of making the difference for a victim, their family, and those at risk.
(i) J Chuang, ‘The Challenges and Perils of Reframing Trafficking as “Modern-Day Slavery”’,Anti-Trafficking Review, issue 5, 2015, pp.146–149, www.antitraffickingreview.org
(ii) Kempadoo, Kamala. “From Moral Panic to Global Justice: Changing Perspectives on Trafficking,” 2005, ix.