Tennessee teachers to get training in spotting signs of human trafficking among students

Staff file photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 9/20/16. Rep. Mike Carter speaks during the Education Mini-Summit 2016 at the Volkswagen Conference Center where Tennessee legislators from Hamilton County and local education officials discussed the county's public school system problems.
photo Mike Carter - 29th District

NASHVILLE - Tennessee officials are implementing new training and curriculum this year for public schools to recognize signs of human trafficking among students under legislation signed into law in May by Gov. Bill Lee.

"According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, human trafficking is the second-fastest growing criminal industry, just behind drug trafficking," said Jennifer Brinkman, director of the state Finance Department's Office of Criminal Justice Programs.

Co-sponsored in the House by Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, the law requires public schools and teachers get up to speed on how to spot signs of human trafficking involving children and what steps to take. Trafficking means using force, fraud or coercion to exploit someone for sex or labor.

"I think a lot of people don't realize the extent that human trafficking occurs," said Carter, a former judge.

Public Chapter 269 requires the family life curriculum used in public schools to include instruction on the "detection, intervention, prevention and treatment of human trafficking in which the victim is a child."

The law also requires that local school systems ensure each teacher employed by a board of education gets the one-time, in-service training.

The Office of Criminal Justice Programs is partnering with the state Department of Education and the nonprofit advocacy/resource group End Slavery Tennessee to develop and make available to local school districts the education curriculum. Funding comes from a Victims of Crime Act grant.

"We see direct services as a vital step for this vulnerable population to heal and rehabilitate their lives," Brinkman said in a news release.

Funding is used to "facilitate the provisions of comprehensive wraparound services to victims of human trafficking recovered in Tennessee, including safe housing, medical care, mental health and substance abuse care, transportation, job training, and other basic human needs," she added.

In fiscal year 2018, the Office of Criminal Justice Programs obligated $600,000 for direct services to nonprofit organizations serving human trafficking victims across the state. In the new fiscal year that began July 1, the agency has boosted funding to $1.86 million for community-based nonprofit groups providing services for human trafficking victims.

As a strategic planning agency, the Office of Criminal Justice Programs secures, distributes and manages federal and state funds for Tennessee under the Victims of Crime Act and STOP Violence Against Women Program.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.