Advocates Applaud the Publication of Guidelines to Prevent the Trafficking of Schoolchildren
TRENTON: A vital document that will assist teachers and school staff in spotting the signs that students might be being groomed or trafficked has been published by the NJ Department of Education. The Guidelines for Schools on the Prevention of Human Trafficking of Students was the result of legislation that passed in 2019 and entailed the gathering of dozens of stakeholders and experts to create the document.
Assemblywoman Angela V. McKnight (D-Hudson) was the original Prime Sponsor of bill A1428 which called for the guidelines to be created and which had bipartisan support passing both the Assembly and Senate unanimously. She welcomed the publication:
“These guidelines will be instrumental in our efforts to identify and intervene in cases of child trafficking, and I am proud to have been a sponsor of the legislation that created them,” said the Assemblywoman. “If we want to protect New Jersey’s children, we must start by raising awareness of human trafficking at the community level. Now, teachers and school staff who see students everyday will know what to look for and how to help students in potential trafficking situations.”
Other prime sponsors of the bill were Senator Teresa M. Ruiz (D-Hudson), Senator Sandra B. Cunningham (D-Hudson), Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro (D-Hudson), along with former Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti, and former Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle.
Members of the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking (NJCAHT) gave testimony to help advance the legislation and several served on the Working Group that the Department of Education convened to create the Guidelines, including Gina Cavallo the NJCAHT Survivor Consultant: “As a survivor of sex trafficking and being a part of the Working Group for the NJ Department of Education, this has been an incredible experience and honor,” she said. “I am filled with emotions of gratitude and hope that the Guidelines are officially finalized. They are comprehensive, thorough and provide the necessary information to potentially save lives in fighting and preventing human trafficking. Thank you to all those who I was honored to work alongside in making this happen.” Ms. Cavallo added.
“The New Jersey Department of Education cares deeply about the well-being and safety of our 1.4 million students. With all that our children and young people are currently navigating, we are glad to be able to release a set of guidelines to schools to bring awareness to human trafficking, thereby aiding in its prevention,” said Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, Acting Commissioner of Education. “These guidelines embody a student-centered and trauma-informed approach and are another tool that can aid in addressing adverse childhood experiences in New Jersey.”
The NJCAHT President, Danny Papa, is an Elementary School Principal, and also served on the working group:
“As an educator, I believe education is prevention. Therefore, the Department of Education’s Guidelines for Schools is an essential first step in educating students and school personnel about human trafficking and the most effective strategies to prevent it.”
The Department of Children and Families along with the Office of the Attorney General co-authored the Guidelines which were the product of the working group which included dozens of organizations and state entities working collaboratively for many months. Those included: NJ School Nurses Association, NJ School Counselor Association, NJ Association of School Psychologists, NJ Education Association, NJ Parent Teacher Association, NJ Association of School Administrators, NJ Principals and Supervisors Association, NJ School Boards Association, NJ Commission on Human Trafficking, NJ State Police, NJ Juvenile Justice Commission, Prevent Child Abuse NJ, NJ Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, NJ Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Sanar Institute, Avanzar, The Audrey Hepburn Children’s House and Cumberland and Mercer County Prosecutor’s Offices.
Aldina Hovde, a member of the NJ Commission on Human Trafficking, attended on behalf of the NJ Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “I’m so thankful to the New Jersey Department of Education for their time and dedication to developing the state’s very first guidelines on human trafficking prevention education for schools.” Said Ms. Hovde. “As a member of the NJ Commission on Human Trafficking and NJCAHT Board of Trustees, I believe that these guidelines are a critical first step to ensure that schools have the tools they need to both educate staff and students and ultimately prevent human trafficking.”
The Guidelines for Schools on the Prevention of Human Trafficking of Students can be found on this page of the NJ Department of Education’s website: https://www.nj.gov/education/students/safety/health/ht/
About the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking
The New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking (NJCAHT) is a fully volunteer-run 501c3 nonprofit founded in 2011 that coordinates statewide community efforts to end sex and labor trafficking in New Jersey. Comprising over 150 volunteers and more than 200 affiliates including nonprofits, faith-based organizations, academics, law enforcement, and direct service providers it works to empower communities with the knowledge of what human trafficking is, how to prevent it, and how to support those affected by it. During January’s Human Trafficking Prevention Month and throughout the year the NJCAHT makes free awareness education available via online events and by offering trainings to schools, local groups, healthcare teams and faith-based communities via its Speakers Bureau. Their events in January include a student created event for January 11 – Human Trafficking Awareness Day – a presentation by Homeland Security on January 18 and an online seminar about the intersection of Child Abuse and Human Trafficking on January 25. For more information go to www.safernj.org.