California makes sex trafficking education mandatory
California has rolled out mandatory sex trafficking prevention education. Source:

California has implemented new laws to ensure teachers are trained to educate schoolchildren on the warning signs of sexual harassment and human trafficking – as well as on how to get help if they are in a dangerous situation. 

Experts hope that by tackling problematic attitudes regarding gender and power in school, assaults on college campuses will become a rarity, reported EdSource.

Erin Prangley, associate director of government relations for the American Association of University Women, a research and policy organization, said school culture often fosters adherence to traditional gender roles where girls feel inferior and submissive to boys, while boys act superior and more aggressive.

These attitudes then go on to create unhealthy relationships between men and women in later life, creating the foundations of sexual assault on college campuses, said Prangley.

“The failure of schools to address sexual harassment and sexual assault in K-12 mirrors the failure to address it in society as a whole,” said Rebecca Peterson-Fisher at Equal Rights Advocates. “The prevalence of sexual harassment in society is extraordinary and we’ve done extraordinarily little to combat it.”

As well as being a social issue, sexual harassment contradicts the legislation outlined in Title IX, which states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

However, Brett Sokolow, executive director of the Association of Title IX Administrators, said enforcement of Title IX is poor, with many schools failing to assign a Title IX coordinator, failing to properly train a coordinator and failing to inform students about their legal right to go to school without being subjected to sexual harassment, according to EdSource.

Now, California is tackling this negligence through a law that requires teachers to receive training to help them identify children at risk of both sex and labor trafficking, and learn where to refer them for help.

Classroom sessions include discussing age-appropriate information about HIV/AIDS prevention, reproductive health, sexual assault and harassment, healthy relationships, consent, positive affirmation of LGBTQ+ orientations and human trafficking. These lessons have been compulsory since 2016, reported The East Bay Times.

“The whole idea was let’s look at teachers as first responders in the classroom,” said Ashlie Bryant, president and co-founder of 3Strands Global Foundation, a coalition of nonprofits that created the curriculum and sponsored the Human Trafficking Prevention Education and Training Act.

PROTECT, an educational programme developed by 3Strands Global Foundation, Love Never Fails and the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, teach young children about safe choices, safe places and appropriate personal boundaries.

In ninth grade, students learn about ‘Romeo’ pimps who feign romantic interest to lure in vulnerable children, ‘guerilla’ traffickers who use force and coercion, and fake businessmen who promise modeling careers that lead to sex slavery.

“This is a challenging curriculum that requires a lot of sensitivity around it,” said Teresa Marquez, director of instruction and curriculum for the 22,000-student district.

“It can be highly triggering for a student who may have had that experience, so we need a lot of training for our teachers so they’re equipped to deliver the content and be prepared for what happens if a kid acts in a certain way.”

It is hoped that through the initiative, young people who are victim to the trade will know how to get help, and children who would have been affected will be able to spot the warning signs before it is too late.

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