The Education Services Center for Region 12 hosted an educator session on awareness, prevention, and intervention of human trafficking on Thursday.
The Heart of Texas Human Trafficking Coalition, which has already helped more than 43 victims under the age of 24 this quarter, lead the sessions to educate more than 60 teachers and counselors about the subject.
Waco ISD Director of Counseling Tiffany Sommerfeld attended the training session looking to gather information to better protect students in the district.
At Waco ISD, there are 1,036 students considered homeless, which is one of the populations at risk for human trafficking.
“When somebody pays attention to them and says hey I can buy this or I can give you a cell phone I can provide you some clothing you might look a little more glamorous here are some earrings that kind of thing they are a lot more vulnerable to be receptive of that kind of situation," Sommerfeld said.
Professional Training Coordinator from anti-trafficking organization UnBound Jessica Sykora said social media applications, such as Facebook and Snapchat are some of the avenues traffickers use to recruit victims.
"It's where our youth is today, and our students are living their lives out, it's not in the mall and the clubs or even the parks. They are living their lives out on devices," stated Jessica Sykora, Professional Training Coordinator of Unbound, an anti-trafficking agency.
Sykora lead a session on technology and social media to help forward the conversation and bring more awareness to human trafficking.
Some of the indicators of that crime include withdrawal, isolation, abrupt change of behavior, school attendance and schoolwork. In addition, the victims may spend time with older friends.
The counselors who attended the event will take what they learned at the sessions and relay that information to other counselors and staff at the school.
"The reality is this a conversation that we need to begin so that they can go back into their schools and talk about how to best address it with their youth.There's not one answer that's going to fix it, but education is where it starts," stated Sykora.
UnBound can go to schools to do sessions for students and educators.
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