North Carolina Senate Bill 199 and School Safeguard Education
School staff and teachers across North Carolina are in a privileged position. Daily, they engage with children and adolescents experiencing trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation. The state of North Carolina currently ranks ninth in the country for trafficking victimizations[i] and the anti-trafficking movement is faced with the task of protecting minors against exploitation.
North Carolina has taken multiple steps in the right direction to combat Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST). In 2019, the NC Senate passed Bill 199 in efforts to help address the state’s prevalence of DMST. Senate Bill 199 (accessible HERE) is defined as “An act to protect children from sexual abuse and to strengthen and modernize sexual assault laws.”[ii] This bill creates more capacity for educators to intercept in cases of sexual exploitation and child sex trafficking, classifies all adults over age 17 as mandated reporters, and requires additional contact beyond DSS, to Law Enforcement in certain instances -- disclosure and/or reasonable knowledge of a violent act to a minor, sexual violence, or misdemeanor child abuse. The Legal Memorandum for Schools summarizes the new mandate well and can be found HERE.
Senate Bill 199 ignites a conducive environment for school staff to prevent and intercept in trafficking victimizations. Of the many imperatives in the bill, one specific requirement has stirred educators to awareness and action – the requirement for all staff working closely with students, to receive appropriate training on child sexual abuse and trafficking. Required every two years, this mandatory training affects all public-school districts in the state.
A Plausible Mandate
The commission of this training makes sense when we analyze the role of educators. Teachers and staff are proximal to students. They are some of the most fundamental and consistent leaders in the lives of minors. Being present with students more than 1,200 hours every year, school staff are frontliners in recognizing behavior changes and they have the opportunity to form key relationships to facilitate disclosures and healing. This component of SB 199 is intended to mobilize frontliners and mitigate victimization.
To implement a mandated training, school districts can choose from any non-governmental (non-profit) organization or utilize an online training. Contracting with a local non-profit has multiple benefits: non-profits offer personal and participant-based delivery, often free of cost, and facilitated by experts in their geographical area.
Life 107’s School Safeguard Training
Life 107 is a non-profit of Western North Carolina, working against trafficking and for the restoration of survivors. Life 107 developed the School Safeguard Training which has been implemented to more than 900 leaders, health educators, and/or teachers in three school districts. The goal of the School Safeguard is to equip teachers and staff to recognize and respond to trafficking, prevent and intercept sexual exploitation, and create safe spaces for disclosures.
The School Safeguard is one of our favorite initiatives because we see the impact on participants. The empirical evidence of its efficiency is unmistakable as school staff in the room recognize students who could be experiencing victimization. This is a rewarding measure that teachers are absorbing the information well, and a true reflection that the Senate was precise in their decision to educate school staff on the detriments of child abuse and DMST. One participant shares her thoughts after receiving the School Safeguard Training.
“As a parent/educator, I am in a special position to protect our children. I am so thankful for Demetria [Executive Director] for reaching out to our department in Buncombe County, and training us in prevention, recognition, and in responding to the detrimental effects of trafficking, pornography, and the sex trade industry. Thanks to Life 107 School Safeguard Training I am more qualified to teach prevention, handle an abusive situation, and report a disclosure of abuse. It is an awesome training to learn to safeguard our children.”
Kathy R. Marlowe, M.H.P.
Health Specialist, Buncombe County Schools
Life 107’s School Safeguard Training covers the spectrum regarding sexual exploitation, while evaluating comprehension, through periodic questions for participants. Topics included in this training are: components of the sex trade industry, pornography risks, trafficking scenarios, pimp/predator grooming tactics, risk factors and vulnerabilities, indicators of trafficking, social-ecological model for risk reduction, best practices in prevention, interception points to detect trafficking, NC SB 199, and innovative ideas to create safe spaces for children.
An Imperative Influence
It's important to note an essential component of this training – skills to create trauma-sensitive and safe spaces for children. Safe spaces are paramount in relationships, disclosures, and trauma restoration. Childhood trauma and abuse ignites vulnerabilities in children which often lead to trafficking and according to one study, 95% of trafficked survivors were abused as children.[iii] Therefore, one of the most powerful methods of preventing future exploitation, is intercepting in childhood abuse and trauma.
Teachers have this wonderful capacity. They have the capacity to notice, lean in, and become a safe place for a child who doesn’t have one. When a teacher’s passion and care for students are paired with the knowledge to recognize victimization, they become powerful tools in lives affected by exploitation. Thank you, teachers, for the passion you pour into your students and the relationships you facilitate to become welcoming spaces.
Life 107 is privileged to provide the School Safeguard Training free of cost to WNC districts and we hope to continue serving the community through educational initiatives. If you would like to learn more about our initiatives or support our work to protect minors, visit us online at Life107.org.
Demetria Gilliam-Williams, MACM
Executive Director, Life 107
Email: Director@Life107.org Phone: (866) 272-5209
Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-866-272-5209
Gen Z Safeguard Initiative: Life107.org
[i] NC Department of Administration, What is Human Trafficking? | NC DOA [ii] Legal Memorandum, Smith, Tharrington, LLP, Education Law Section, Senate Bill 199 memo.pdf [iii] The Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice, and Research, University of Pennsylvania, 2018, Wolfe, Debra, Med, et al., Human Trafficking Prevalence and Child Welfare Risk Factors Among Homeless Youth, page 3, CovenantHouse.org