By KATHRYN VAUGHN
Special to The Leader
Teachers in Tipton County Schools are currently being trained on how to spot the warning signs of human trafficking.
The training is part of a new law passed in Tennessee last year. Under the law, teachers must receive a one-time in-service training on the detection, intervention, prevention and treatment of child victims. The bill also requires the school boards to keep a list of each teacher who has completed the training.
Teachers attended a workshop provided by Restore Corps, a non-profit organization from Shelby County that provides assistance to victims of trafficking. Jessica Shoup, Restore Corps’ community engagement educator, and Margot Aleman, survivor care coordinator, led the training to the group of county teachers and administrators.
“At Restore Corps we serve as the single point of contact for West Tennessee, providing wrap around, trauma informed, strengths based case management service for any human trafficking referrals in the 21 counties of west Tennessee,” Shoup told the room of educators.
“According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, human trafficking is the second-fastest growing criminal industry in our state, just behind drug trafficking,” continued Shoup. “We are fortunate in Tennessee to be leading the way with human trafficking Laws.”
During the training, teachers learned the signs to look for when identifying victims such as drastic changes in a child’s behavior, tattoos, new clothes or items and extra money the child didn’t have before. They also learned trafficking could happen to anyone, it is not restricted to one ethnic group, gender or age group. The most common age for victims is 13.
“When people think about human trafficking, they tend to think about stranger abductions much like in movies like “Taken,” but that is often not the case. Most of the victims we encounter have been trafficked by people they felt close too, like boyfriends, trusted friends and even family members,” Shoup explained.
“One of the victims I work with was trafficked by her grandmother. She used the young child in exchange for rent. The most common cases we see are young girls who meet older men online or in person. The men entice the girls with promises of futures together, buy them fancy clothes, and then ask for them to ‘help’ in return. Traffickers prey on people who are looking for belonging, or economic support,” said Aleman.
• Tennessee is the best state in the nation for response to human trafficking threats according to a November report from Shared Hope International.
• Rep. Debra Moody helped advocate for this bill and this year sponsored a bill to provide victims with treatment and support services.
“We have cases of trafficking humans for monetary gain in every county in Tennessee, and because it is so often hard to detect, it’s often a crime that goes under reported. Our goals with this training is to give teachers the awareness to be on the lookout for signs of trafficking so that they can alert the authorities, and we can then get the victims the help they need,” concluded Shoup.
For more information about trafficking and human slavery in Tennessee you can contact Restore Corps at 901-410-3590 or find them on Facebook at Restore Corps. They are always looking for people who would like to get involved with volunteering or donating to their non-profit and can be reached via their website, www.restorecorps.org.