By: Shelby Lundahl
Human trafficking is a $32 billion global industry that transverses national boundaries. It is a problem that exists in every state in the U.S., and California is one of the largest sites of human trafficking in the nation. That may be due to a number of factors, including California’s vast size, large population, and international border. In 2016 alone, there were 1,322 reported cases of human trafficking, which is a fraction of the true number of cases. Most cases go unreported due to fear of the trafficker, fear of law enforcement, or a sense of hopelessness. Even so, the number of reported cases of human trafficking has swung up and down over the past five years. Human trafficking is a widespread problem and difficult to recognize, prompting California lawmakers to introduce Assembly Bill 1227 earlier this year to attack the problem head-on.
AB 1227 seeks to spread awareness of human trafficking and implement prevention measures in local communities. It directly targets the segment of the population most vulnerable to being trafficked – children ages nine to eighteen. Assembly Members Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) and Evan Low (D-Campbell) introduced the legislation, which quickly gained full bipartisan support. AB 1227 makes human trafficking education and training mandatory in public middle schools and high schools in California.
The training has a three-fold approach. First, the education program aims to deliver comprehensive prevention education and training procedures on human trafficking. The information will allow teachers, administrators, and students to become aware and begin to develop an understanding of human trafficking. Second, it helps students recognize signs of human trafficking, which include force, fraud, and coercion. And finally, the education will help students avoid becoming victims themselves. Human traffickers use subtle and clever tactics to lure children in – such as using other young people to befriend these children, offering jobs that seem too good to be true, or pretending to be romantically interested in these children – making it critically important that students can recognize these tactics and extract themselves from the situation.
AB 1227 had widespread support from school districts, faith-based organizations, teachers, labor unions, and district attorneys’ offices across the state. Although there are no exact numbers, AB 1227 is expected to cost approximately $20,000 to develop the training curriculum and approximately $5 million to provide the training to the teachers and school district personnel across the state. Teachers will receive continuation training, as necessary, which ensures the information being presented to the students is up-to-date. Further, the different agencies and offices who encounter young children – such as: child welfare agencies, public health departments, sheriff’s departments, and juvenile courts – are encouraged to work together to develop intervention programs. Once the curriculum is developed and implemented, the number of potential reporters and people on the lookout for human trafficking will increase and hopefully lead to an end to this horrific form of modern-day slavery.
To learn more about AB 1227, listen to my interview on “In Session,” a podcast from the University of the Pacific Law Review.
Shelby Lundahl is a staff writer for the University of the Pacific Law Review and law student student at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento.