California public schools are working to comply with a new law that requires them to teach students about human trafficking. The Human Trafficking Prevention Education and Training Act (AB 1227) went into effect last year.
It requires that students learn about human trafficking prevention at least once in middle school and once in high school. So in their health classes, students will learn what human trafficking is, how to spot it and how to get help. It also requires training for school district personnel.
On Thursday, the Monterey County Office of Education hosted a Human Trafficking Summit in Salinas. Over 200 people attended, including law enforcement, educators and service providers. Deborah Pembrook is a survivor and is now the Human Trafficking Outreach Manager for the Monterey County Rape Crisis Center.
“Education is an incredibly powerful tool because if we don't know what human trafficking looks like, if we don't know what traffickers are doing, their tactics, then we can't understand and it stays invisible,” says Pembrook.
One of the Summit’s keynote speakers, Catie Hart, says someone pretending to be her boyfriend lured her in.
“And for seven years I was a victim of sex trafficking in the Bay Area. And after I made my escape in 2006, I got my education, I graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in sociology,” says Hart.
Hart currently teaches Santa Cruz and Monterey County high schoolers about human trafficking. She’s working to tailor the curriculum for middle schoolers.
“We talk about our national trafficking hotline and we'll memorize phone numbers because in 2019 nobody memorizes phone numbers anymore. So if somebody takes your phone from you, you're essentially cut off,” says Hart.
The National Trafficking Hotline is multi-lingual and can be reached at 888-373-7888 or text “Help” to BeFree (233733).
Since 2015, the Monterey County Department of Social Services has identified over 80 children and teens as victims or survivors of human trafficking.
According to AB 1227, the average age of sex trafficking victims is between 11 and 14 years old and California has a high rate of human trafficking compared to the rest of the nation.