Schools should be one of the safest places a child can be. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. From violence to food insecurity, there are things that threaten the well-being of our youth while in the classroom. But something that might not initially come to mind when thinking of school safety is sex trafficking.
The Campus Can be a Hub for Trafficking
Did you know that in 2019, over 5,000 trafficking victims and survivors identified through the National Human Trafficking Hotline were under 18? Or that research has shown that traffickers often target youth with factors that put them more at-risk, such as being part of minority groups or having experienced violence, homelessness, or academic difficulties?
These facts, coupled with other prevalent issues like a lack of strong support networks or low self-esteem, increase the risk of school-aged children being targeted by traffickers. Educational environments are often where traffickers go to groom and exploit children. Confirmed cases of human trafficking, including sex trafficking, have occurred on school grounds, at school events, and even carried out by classmates.
That’s Where the No Trafficking Zones Act Comes In
Thankfully, this problem is being recognized and dealt with in Congress. In September 2022, H.R. 7566, or the No Trafficking Zones (NTZ) Act, was passed in the House! Introduced by Texas Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee and Michael McCaul, this bipartisan bill makes campuses safer for students by increasing the punishment for trafficking-related offenses that are committed in a school zone or within 1000 feet of a school sponsored event. Any individual found to be sex trafficking a minor or coercing and enticing a minor to engage in prostitution or any sexual activity for which a person can be charged with a criminal offense—including over social media and messaging apps—within a school zone will be punished with an additional imprisonment of not more than five years.
Survivor Support for the NTZ Act
The NTZ Act was written with input, advisory, and review from sex trafficking survivors. On a beautiful day in Washington, D.C., those lived-experienced experts were able to join Congresswoman Jackson Lee outside of the U.S. Capitol as she announced the passage of the bill through the House. Representatives from No Trafficking Zone shared remarks supporting H.R. 7566. One survivor leader said the NTZ Act is a “life-or-death legislation” and the passing of the bill “will save countless lives.”
This is Just the Beginning
As Congresswoman Jackson Lee said, “Never give up, never give in, never give out.” The passing of the NTZ Act is a wonderful example of what happens when people put politics aside and come together to protect America’s youth. The NTZ Act is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bipartisan child safety bills in Congress! The EARN IT Act and the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) are both bills that compel Big Tech to take responsibility for protecting the children and teenagers who use their platforms.
Fill out this action form to contact your Representative and urge them to create safe spaces for youth at school. Your voice is needed!