Each one of us has a part to play in the fight against human trafficking, but some professionals are in a position that we’d consider the front lines. In their roles, they have a unique ability to identify and intervene in trafficking situations. In this post, we explore how bus drivers in the Houston area are being equipped to play a front-line role in preventing and identifying child sex trafficking.
In December 2017 UnBound Houston shared with every junior high student in Brazosport ISD the importance of staying safe by being aware of the tactics of human traffickers. Every student presentation is preceded by a parent meeting to allow the parents to have a full understanding of what we will be sharing with their sons and daughters. While our November 2nd parent meeting had a very small attendance, it had a monumental outcome.
One of the parents that attended that evening is also a bus driver for the district. After our presentation, he approached us to see if we would consider presenting this information to bus drivers because they go throughout all parts of their community and “see things.” We never turn down an opportunity to present to any group of professionals who engage with young people, so we very quickly said, “of course!” without realizing the full gravity of the impact of that “YES.”
On November 8th, we were contacted by the Brazosport ISD transportation director, John Craig. A speaker for his upcoming in-service had cancelled, and he wondered if we would be available to speak to the entire transportation department on November 10. Everyone on our usual speaking team was committed that day, so I was asked if I would be willing to do the presentation. As Director of Administration, this is not a part of my normal duties, but being a retired educator and knowing the importance of bus drivers in the day to day life of Texas students, I willingly said “YES” to making the presentation.
The audience was incredibly receptive and afterwards many came to share their stories with me. A new group of professionals was activated to combat slavery and ignite hope in their community. Little did I know that this one “YES” would lead to a whole new strategy for UnBound in activating local communities.
Did you know bus drivers have a state convention? I didn’t either, until shortly after the Brazosport ISD transportation presentation when I was invited to present the Human Trafficking 101 presentation at the Texas Association of Pupil Transportation State Convention in Corpus Christi in June 2018.
Think about it – the work of pupil transportation is serious business in Texas. These professionals transport our most precious cargo–our children–to and from their places of learning. If a young person rides a bus from Kindergarten through 12th grade every day, a bus driver has the potential to encounter that student 4320 times in their life!
After speaking in two breakout sessions at the TAPT state convention, invitations from school district transportation departments began arriving from around the state. To date, in just one year, more than 2000 public school transportation providers have been professionally trained by UnBound staff. And I have been affectionately named: “The Bus Lady.”
There are two reasons why we have found these drivers to be such an impactful audience. First of all, just like the song says “the wheels on the bus go round and round all through the town.” And because they drive a regular route they do “see things” that are out of the ordinary and new people that seem out of place. They also know their students well. They know their families, family history and patterns in their lives. They know when there are changes to those patterns that could indicate a student is being groomed by a trafficker. Many bus drivers have told me stories of how students in their communities have gone missing and the driver had heard things that could help with an investigation. Now equipped with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number and the support of local authorities in recognizing signs of trafficking, these professionals can play a vital role in finding students that are missing. Secondly, and most importantly, by knowing the signs of grooming, transportation providers can play a part in preventing students in their influence from falling victim to the lies of traffickers in the first place.
Do you know a school district that needs their professionals to be trained in the fight to keep our young people safe from traffickers? UnBound is ready to equip them – teachers, counselors, nurses, and bus drivers to combat slavery and ignite hope!
Contact [email protected] to request a training.
Post by Nancy Stewart
Director of Administration