SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Advocates want to see every public middle and high school in California teach students the signs of human trafficking.
The proposed law just passed the California Assembly with bipartisan support, but not all parents are on board.
Ponderosa High School in El Dorado County is one of few high schools in the California teaching human trafficking during sex education. Teachers say students are so impacted, they leave class telling their friends.
“I was shocked a little scared,” said Karen Norwood, health teacher at Ponderosa High School.
It started with the story of a 17-year-old student from Ponderosa High School, sex trafficked from this tight knit town to the Bay Area. Karen Norwood wanted her students to recognize the red flags.
“If you have a student super bubbly and no longer is. A student once quiet and now flashy and out there,” listing some of the signs.
Norwood now spends part of the school day teaching students about human trafficking… a curriculum based on interviews with survivors and traffickers.
“They are calm; they are listening. They usually leave with a purpose,” she said of her students.
Anti-trafficking advocates who trained her are sponsoring a bill aiming to bring human trafficking education to seventh to 12th graders in all California public schools.
“There’s three pieces here: there’s the victim, trafficker, and the buyer so we want to create a program that really helps speak to all of those,” said Heather Hoffman of 3 Strands Foundation.
Heather Hoffman leads the teacher training. She says high schoolers surveyed before entering the program had no idea that students younger than them are lured from their normal lives and made into sex or work slaves. Results improved when students completed the course.
But the subject comes with a dollar sign. It would cost millions of dollars to provide the required training. And many parents say it’s a waste of money and time.
“These agencies are not teachers,” said Amy Scherschligt.
Scherschligt is a substitute teacher and volunteer with California’s Right to Life movement. The nonprofit is currently lobbying against 45 bills in the state legislature focused on some aspect of human trafficking.
“We hire and pay teaches to teach academics and this is going to take away from academic time in the classroom,” said Scherschligt.
Norwood says, “if we can’t keep our kids safe academics, doesn’t really matter.”
For now the bill doesn’t apply to elementary schools, but that could change as it makes its way to the Senate.