Human Trafficking: A Primer for PTAs

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. While you may not think that human trafficking is an issue in your community—a 2017 poll in Illinois indicated more than half disagreed that it was happening in their area—in fact, Illinois ranks 11th in the nation in the number of cases of human trafficking.

What is Human Trafficking?

When most people hear about human trafficking, they tend to think of sex trafficking. In terms of reported cases, sex trafficking is the most predominant form of human trafficking in Illinois, but labor trafficking occurs as well. The latter may involve forced domestic work, construction, agricultural work, traveling sales crews, or begging rings.

Human Trafficking in Illinois

In 2018, the state of Illinois released its Illinois Human Trafficking Task Force Report. The report investigated the issue of human trafficking in Illinois and made recommendations for ending the practice. Among the findings from the report are:

  • 970 children in Illinois had been trafficked between 2011 and 2017.
  • The average age of those children was just under 14 years old.
  • Female children make up 87% of those trafficked.
  • African American children account for 53% of the children trafficked in Illinois, while white children account for 42%.

Human traffickers recruit children much like sexual predators do. Common methods include:

  • Meeting the need for food, clothing, and shelter, particularly with homeless children
  • Promises of love, romance, and acceptance
  • Offers of independence, luxury items, and cash
  • Flattery, lies, and manipulation
  • Exploiting a position of authority
  • Exploiting vulnerability or desperation

Resources for PTAs

PTAs can play a role in working to end human trafficking by providing educational and awareness events. Holding such an event would support the National PTA Resolution on Child Trafficking that was adopted at the 2009 National PTA Convention. Keep in mind that this is not an easy topic to discuss, and your PTA should consider providing babysitting so that parents can learn and discuss the issue without children present. Here are some resources to help you host an event.

National Human Trafficking Hotline

In addition to the hotline itself (888-373-7888, texting HELP to BEFREE (233733), or e-mailing, the website includes a large resource library, including a US Department of Education report on Human Trafficking in America’s Schools. They also have their flyer for the hotline available in 23 languages.

Office on Trafficking in Persons

A part of the US Department of Health & Human Services, the office’s website includes a resource library, handouts for their Look Beneath the Surface campaign, and links to other federal efforts to combat human trafficking.


Illinois Legal Aid Online

As part of their introduction to human trafficking, they have a 30-minute video intended for the general public and a webinar designed for service providers. There is a pre-test and post-test that you can use on either side of showing the video.


Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force

The task force brings together law enforcement, social, and legal service agencies to work on human trafficking cases. They may be able to provide a speaker for PTAs in Cook County.


Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Blue Campaign is focused on ending human trafficking. The campaign has a document library and a series of awareness videos. The campaign also provides at no cost printed materials for the campaign (e.g., posters, cards, and pamphlets), but requires a 3- to 4-month lead time to fulfill orders.


Stop Human Trafficking—Eastern Missouri & Southern Illinois Network

Provides a Human Trafficking 101 training for organizations and has several fact sheets that could be used as handouts.


National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

The center has a page of resources dedicated to the issue of child sex trafficking.


Youth Collaboratory

Created in partnership with the Wichita State University Center for Combatting Human Trafficking and the US Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention, this online portal provides a toolkit of 20 modules focused on the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Each module explains what is known about the topic, what it means, and how it can be put into practice on the individual, program, and community level.


US Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention

This office serves as the federal government’s point of attack regarding human trafficking of children. The site provides links to many other federal and non-governmental resources on the topic.

Host a Safer Internet Day Event on February 11th

Safer Internet Day is an internationally-celebrated education and awareness event occurring on February 11, 2020. National PTA has partnered with Connect Safely and TikTok to create a ready-to-use Safer Internet Day toolkit. National PTA also has their Smart Talk event planning toolkit as well that you can use for a second or alternative event.

The Safer Internet Day toolkit has everything you need to plan, promote, and host your event in either English or Spanish, including:

  • An event planning guide and checklist
  • Talking points for PTA leaders
  • Volunteer invitations, sign-up sheets, and thank yous
  • Tips for recruiting non-PTA volunteers
  • Promotional flyers and e-mail invitations
  • Draft letters to elected officials and press releases for media
  • Social media samples
  • Suggested budget
  • Event agenda, presentation (PowerPoint and Google Slides), and script
  • Handouts
  • Prompts for a student panel
  • Media release waiver

We all want our children to be safe online, and new apps and technologies often become popular with our children long before we become aware of them. If you or parents at your school want to learn about the latest popular app, TikTok, consider hosting a Safer Internet Day event on February 11th.

Surprising New Trends in Parents’ Views

Illinois PTA has highlighted Learning Heroes and their parent resources often, but their research work is also important. In the past two years, Learning Heroes noted that many parents are overestimating how well their child is doing in school and dug into some of the reasons behind that disconnect. The results of this year’s parent and teacher survey are in, and there are some surprising trends.

The Disconnect Remains

The survey shows that 90% of parents still believe their child is performing at or above grade level, essentially unchanged from past years. Yet results from the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) continue to show that only about 37% of students are at or above grade level. Similarly, only 39% of teachers report that their students are prepared to work at grade level at the beginning of the school year. The Learning Heroes survey also indicates an increasing number of parents, across all racial groups, believe that their child will be prepared for college and will get a four-year degree.

Report Cards Remain at the Heart of the Disconnect

Parents primarily rely on report card grades to indicate how their child is doing in school, but teacher state that those grades reflect effort more than achievement. Teachers also say that the best way to monitor how your child is doing in school is regular communication with your child’s teacher (i.e., not just in a parent-teacher conference). The survey also indicates that parents are much less likely to engage in or utilize such discussions with their child’s teacher in gauging how their child is doing.

Parent Beliefs are Shifting

The survey indicates that parents’ views about their child’s education is changing fairly rapidly in the past four years. In fact, some of the changes were so significant, that the researchers carefully studied the data to confirm that there was not a problem with the data or sampling. Among the shifts are:

  • Parents increasingly view their child’s school as excellent or very good (75% in 2016 to 84% in 2019).
  • Parents are much less worried about their child’s social, emotional, and academic performance, with significant decreases in concerns about happiness and emotional well-being (64% in 2018 to 60% in 2019), peer pressure (63% to 55%), gaining skills and knowledge to be ready for college (63% to 42%), and whether their child is on track academically (50% to 38%). These large, one-year changes are what led researchers to investigate the data for errors, confirming that these changes are in fact real.
  • Parents increasingly place the responsibility for their child’s in-school success on the child. In 2016, 37% of parents said their child was primarily responsible, 43% said they were as parents, and 16% said the teacher was responsible. In 2019, those percentages shifted to 59% saying the child was primarily responsible, 30% saying they as parents were responsible, and 9% saying the teacher was responsible for their child’s success at school.
  • Parents are reducing their engagement with their child’s school, with drops in the percentage of parents who attended a parent-teacher conference (77% in 2017 to 62% in 2019), communicated with the teacher outside of conferences (72% to 50%), and helped their child with homework (86% to74%).

For more information on the results of this year’s Learning Heroes survey, visit their research page, which includes the report, a presentation deck, and a recorded webinar as well as links to previous years’ reports. Be sure to check out Learning Heroes’ extensive parent resources as well.

National PTA’s Notes from the Backpack Podcast

You probably know that National PTA has a wealth of resources to help you support your child’s education, but perhaps you’re a little short on time to hunt them down and read through them. This fall, National PTA launched its Notes from the Backpack podcast as part of their Center for Family Engagement.

Each podcast lasts about 30 minutes, and there are already a dozen episodes for you to listen to, including:

  • The Truth about School Discipline in America
  • How is Your Kid Really Doing in School?
  • Middle School: What Every Parent Should Know
  • Recess: Is it Just for Play?
  • The Myth of the Uninvolved Parent
  • How to Raise Confident Kids
  • How to Handle Homework: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
  • Asking the “Right” Questions
  • Partnering with Your Child’s Teacher
  • ¿Está su Hijo Recibiendo los Servicios que Necesita? (Is your child getting the services you need? a special episode in Spanish)
  • How College Ready Are You?
  • Beyond Academics: Preparing Your Kids for Life

Each podcast also has a transcription of the podcast available in Spanish as well. The holiday break is a great time make a cup of cocoa, settle in, and get caught up on the podcast.