Nebraska school officials to help fight human trafficking
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Some Nebraska school administrators have been recruited into a task force against people who sell children for sex.
The Nebraska Human Trafficking Task Force welcomed an auditorium full of Lincoln Public Schools officials Tuesday, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.
"We've just recruited you into this army," said Glen Parks, who coordinates the state task force organized in 2015. "There's not one tell-tale sign. You've got to use your intuition. ... this is a crime that happens in the shadows."
Parks and Erin Aliano, a special projects coordinator of the Nebraska Alliance of Child Advocacy Centers who specializes in child sex trafficking, presented a course into the sex trafficking world and how to recognize signs that their students might be victims.
Aliano said to look for changes in behavior or unexplained and unexcused absences. She also said a normally outgoing student becoming quiet could indicate that something is wrong.
"Something that makes your stomach go 'ugh' usually means something is not right here," Aliano said.
She also encouraged school officials to be part of a cultural shift away from seeing missing children simply as runaways and instead as victims.
"Instead of asking 'what did you do?' (when missing), ask 'what happened to you?'" Aliano said. "Look at the child first as a victim."
Parks said teachers can also help educate students about safety on social media and what a legitimate job opportunity looks like.
The Human Trafficking Initiative estimates that about 900 Nebraska residents, 200 of which are from Lincoln, are sold for sex online every month.
"We used to worry about who physically had access to our kids," Aliano said. "Now we have to worry about everyone in the world having access to our children."