You’ve probably been in school for a little bit by this point and gotten to know your students better. Do any of your students seem “off”? Maybe they don’t quite meet your eyes when they talk to you or they have already had some unexcused absences?

While not always, this could be an indicator of human trafficking. Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit a person for labor or commercial sex. Unfortunately, many of these victims can go unnoticed in your classroom.

What do you look for?

Here are some other questions to ask yourself if you are unsure about a student in your classroom:

  • Does the student have unexplained absences from school?
  • Has the student suddenly changed his or her usual attire, behavior, or relationships?
  • Does the student suddenly have more (and/or more expensive) material possessions?
  • Does the student chronically run away from home?
  • Does the student act fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous and paranoid?
  • Does the student defer to another person to speak for him or her, especially during interactions with school authority figures (this may include an adult described by the student as a relative, but also may be a friend or boyfriend/girlfriend)?
  • Does the student show signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or other serious pain or suffering?
  • Does the student appear to have been deprived of food, water, sleep, medical care, or other life necessities?
  • Is the student in possession of his or her own identification documents (e.g., student identification card, driver’s license, or passport), or does someone else have them?
  • Does the student have a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” who is noticeably older?
  • Is the student engaging in uncharacteristically promiscuous behavior, or making references to sexual situations or terminology that are beyond age-specific norms?
  • Does the student appear to be restricted from contacting family, friends, or his or her legal guardian?


What should you do?

While these behaviors do not necessarily mean someone is being trafficked, the more of them you can say “yes” to, the more concern you should have. If you have a strong suspicion trafficking is happening, don’t hesitate to report it:

  • Call 911
  • Tell the dispatcher you are reporting suspected human trafficking
  • Make sure to mention the age of the child and any other pertinent details

After you report to the police:

  • Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-3737-888 OR text details to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at BeFree (233733)

Make sure you also mention it to the admin of your school. It’s also a good idea to set up a system at your school for reporting human trafficking if there isn’t already one in place.

By being aware of human trafficking, you can make a difference in the lives of your students. Be on the lookout and make sure to share this with your coworkers.

Learn More about Trafficking

We have a course called Red Flags that trains individuals to identify and intervene in human trafficking situations. You can preview the course here. Learn more about Red Flags and download additional resources here.

Additionally, if you are from Texas, you can take this course for CEUs