Safe Schools

Human Trafficking

Published: 3/18/2024 9:09 AM

​Human trafficking is a rapidly growing crime -- a crime which often victimizes children who are missing. Kentucky’s location and major interstates make it a location conducive to the crime. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reported that 86 percent (about 11,880) of the cases they worked within 2015 were endangered runaways. One in five of these children were likely victims of sexual trafficking. This fact makes it critical that educators be aware of the reality of the crime. The efforts of collaborating state agencies, with schools being a primary partner, play an integral role in locating the child and potentially saving that child from a life of victimization.

Kentucky House Bill 524 (2017) amends KRS 156.095 to require public schools to display the National Human Trafficking Reporting Hotline, which is 1-888-373-7888. The Office of Refugee Resettlement also provides posters and brochures in several different languages that provide the hotline number as well as information about human trafficking.

​What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is the exploitation of another individual for labor and/or commercial sex though the use of fraud, force, or coercion, making it modern day slavery. Kentucky passed the Human Trafficking Victims Rights Act in 2013, which includes the “safe harbor” component that is aimed at protecting the youngest victims from prosecution and by mandating services for their recovery.

How many children are involved in human trafficking?

Children, unfortunately, are not exempt from this heinous crime. Bakita Empowerment Initiative, a Catholic Charities of Louisville program reported that 332 trafficking victims have been identified since 2008. A startling 60% of these victims were children. A recent University of Louisville study, Youth Experience Survey (YES): Exploring the Scope and Complexity of Sex Trafficking in a Sample of Youth Experiencing Homelessness in Kentuckiana, found that 40% of homeless youth surveyed identified with being a victim of sex trafficking. The National Human Trafficking Hotline keeps an up-to-date count of the number of tips reported in Kentucky. Given that human trafficking is often overlooked and underreported because the crime is occurring on the margins of society and behind closed doors, the numbers are assumed to be substantially higher. A human trafficking victim could be sitting in a classroom in your district at this very moment.

What are the warning signs?

We as educators have a unique opportunity to safeguard our students from trafficking but most of us have little knowledge about the subject. Recognizing a victim is difficult because many of these red flags could apply to other situations such as drug abuse or homelessness.

How do I report suspicions of human trafficking?

Every person who works in a school system has the potential to be an advocate for child victims of human trafficking. The U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security published Human Trafficking 101 for School Administrators and Staff​​ which can help educators identify potential trafficking victims. School personnel should then report suspected victimization. The National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888) is an anonymous reporting tool that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Human Trafficking Protocol for Educators

In collaboration with the  Human Trafficking State Task Force, KDE is working to create awareness on the issue of child human trafficking. One task has been to create a one-page protocol which lists indicators of trafficking, how to report suspected cases, as well as how to support the subsequent investigation. Training for educators on risk factors for vulnerable children and the signs of trafficking is available from KDE as well as the Attorney General's office. After reporting a suspected case, educators must be cautious not to intervene in a way that might jeopardize an investigation because victims are under the power and control of the trafficker and often try to protect the trafficker. The protocol can be displayed in your schools and shared with educators.

​Related Statutes

KRS 336.075 – Requires the Labor Cabinet to report all suspected incidents of human trafficking to law enforcement and provides immunity from liability for anyone in the cabinet reporting in good faith

KRS 413.249 – Action relating to childhood sexual abuse or childhood sexual assault

KRS 421.350 – Testimony of child allegedly victim of illegal sexual activity

KRS 421.500 – Victim’s Bill of Rights

KRS 431.600 – Includes advocates of victims for human trafficking in membership of multidisciplinary teams and permits MDTs to investigate child human trafficking cases involving commercial sexual activity

KRS 529.100 – Human trafficking

KRS 529.110 – Promoting human trafficking

KRS 529.120 – Prohibits prosecution of minors for prostitution and requires report of child to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS); permits law enforcement to take a child victim of human trafficking into protective custody

KRS 529.180 – Ignorance of human trafficking minor victim's actual age not a defense

KRS 605.030 – Permits court-designated workers to perform an initial screening for human trafficking

KRS 620.029 – Requires cabinet to report all children who are victims of human trafficking

KRS 620.030 – Requires a mandatory report to CHFS if there is reasonable cause to believe a child is a victim of human trafficking

KRS 620.040 – Provide assessment, treatment, housing, and services to the child as a victim of human trafficking and treat the child as an abused child

KRS 630.125 – Child not to be charged with or found guilty of status offense related to human trafficking.

Related Resources

KDE's Child Abuse and Neglect Website - includes trainings for Human Trafficking

Child Human Trafficking Protocol-Adapted for Educators - created by the Kentucky Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force

Truckers Against Trafficking Bus Training - includes training video to use for bus drivers

Human Trafficking 101 Information Sheet​​ - Homeland Security

Human Trafficking of Children in the United States – U.S. Department of Education

Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs​

Human Trafficking in America’s Schools – The National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments (NCSSLE)

Indicators of Human Trafficking – Homeland Security

Recognize the Signs – Polaris

Identify and Assist a Trafficking Victim - U.S. Department of State

Human Trafficking Prevention Month Toolkit - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services​​

​Deborah Sauber
Office of Continuous Improvement and Support
Division of Student Success
300 Sower Blvd., 5th Floor
Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 564-4772

  • Normal Font Size