District Attorney hails $3 million grant to schools to fight human trafficking
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Public schools in San Diego County will soon be playing a much bigger role in keeping students safe. Their focus is on protecting children from human traffickers.
The San Diego County District Attorney announced a trio of new programs to stop the exploitation of children by commercial sex traffickers.
Under a state law passed in 2017, school districts in California are now required to provide education and intervention programs to fight human trafficking.
The problem for many school districts was finding the money for the curriculum. As District Attorney Summer Stephan explained, the law was an unfunded mandate for the school districts. “In sex trafficking, the average age of a victim is 16 years old. Doesn’t that make an extraordinary case that our schools have to be the place where we begin this fight?” Stephan asked.
However, thanks to a new grant by a philanthropic foundation, the county has surmounted the funding challenge. UBS Optimus Foundation, associated with UBS, a global financial services company is providing a $3 million grant to a new group called the San Diego Trafficking Prevention Collective.
The goal of the Collective is to reach students through three programs that emphasize education, empowerment and intervention. The programs will educate students in the fifth, seventh, ninth and eleventh grades about human trafficking. The collaborative effort means more than just reaching students and teachers. The programs will also help to train other district staff, such as nurses, bus drivers and cafeteria employees on how to recognize the signs of a child who is being used by traffickers.
At the news conference announcing the new prevention programs, Jaimee Johnson, a survivor of human trafficking and a facilitator for one of the programs said, “I remember thinking if I had had this opportunity to get this education myself, how different my life could have been.”