AUSTIN, Minn.- Human trafficking is a concern throughout the United States, whether it’s sex trafficking or forced labor. Students in the Austin School District are learning that anyone is a target.
According to Dosomething.org, between 14,000 and 17,000 people are trafficked each year in the U.S.
“Minnesota is the leader in the nation for trying to address sex trafficking and sexual exploitation,” said Laura Sutherland, Safe Harbor in Southeast Minnesota.
Sutherland is educating these students about human trafficking through a medium they understand, social media.
She is stressing that although the internet can be a great thing it’s also very dangerous and students should avoid interacting with strangers on Facebook, Instagram and other accounts.
“It can be twisted and turned by people who want to exploit our kids,” said Sutherland. “That’s why we want kids to know how adults are doing that because when students are using social media, they might not realize those people don’t have good intentions.”
Following the presentation the school is conducting a survey.
“They could mark down if they wanted to visit further with a councilor about a concern they have for either themselves or a friend,” said Sheri Willrodt, Director of Special Services for Austin High School. “We did get some hits on those surveys so our councilors are following up.”
It’s a way for students to feel comfortable talking about the issue because according to Sutherland, children are being taken and sold against their will right in our area.
“If these are situations where they can step in and really help out and change the path for some of our students, then that’s what we want to do.”
With the last two weeks, Sutherland presented to all of the students in from 7th grade to 12th grade in the district.