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.

Illinois PTA Supports Governor’s End to Seclusion

Illinois PTA strongly supports Governor JB Pritzker’s decision to end seclusion of students by schools. The move comes following a ProPublica Illinois investigation in conjunction with the Chicago Tribune into the use of restraint and seclusion in Illinois public schools. The investigation documented more than 20,000 incidents from the 2017-2018 school year and through early December 2018, a significant fraction of which did not meet the legal requirement of a student posing a safety threat to themselves or others.

Illinois PTA has advocated for limiting the use of restraint and seclusion in accordance with the 2015 National PTA resolution on the issue. Restraint and seclusion are most often used on students with special needs, and as documented by ProPublica Illinois, are often used in situations where student safety is not a concern (e.g., spilling milk, swearing, or refusing to do classwork). Parents are often told little or nothing about what has happened to their child.

The trauma associated with the use of restraint and seclusion can have lasting effects on children. In 2012, the US Department of Education noted that secluding students was dangerous and that there was no evidence showing it was effective in reducing problematic behaviors. Far too often, restraint and seclusion are illegally used as disciplinary tools, not for student safety. In some instances, improper use of restraint and seclusion has resulted in the death of a student.

In accordance with the governor’s directive, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has announced emergency action to immediately end the use of restraint and seclusion in Illinois schools. Illinois PTA supports this emergency action and is prepared to work with ISBE, the governor’s office, and the General Assembly to education families on this issue and support legislation to end the practice of restraint and seclusion.

US Secret Service Report on School Shootings

Columbine High School. Sandy Hook Elementary. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The names are etched in our memories for reasons that no school wants to be remembered. Even as this post was being written, news broke of another school shooting in Santa Clarita, California. A new report by the US Secret Service has studied these and other school shootings, providing an unprecedented base of facts about school shootings and guidelines for preventing them.

The new report strengthens the conclusions of a 2002 Secret Service report—that there is no consistent “profile” of school shooters and that threat assessment and intervention are key to preventing shootings. The one consistent thread through all of the school shootings studied in the report is that every single shooter experienced extreme stress in their relationships with classmates within six months of their attack, and half had stressors in the two days before their attack.

Here are some key conclusions of the report:

  • There is no profile of school shooters or the type of school where the shooting occurred.
  • There are usually multiple motives for a shooting, the most common being grievances with classmates and school staff and issues with romantic partners.
  • Most attackers used firearms, and those firearms were most often acquired in their own home.
  • Nearly every attacker experienced negative home life factors (e.g., divorced or separated parents, drug use or criminal charges among family members, or domestic abuse). The report specifically notes that these are not predictors of school violence.
  • Most attackers were victims of bullying, and that bullying was often observed by others.
  • All attackers exhibited concerning behaviors, and most communicated their intent to attack. The report notes that in many cases, someone observed a threatening communication or behavior but did not act, either out of fear, not believing the attacker, misjudging the immediacy or location, or believing they had dissuaded the attacker.

What Parents and PTAs Can Do

The report notes that preventing school violence is the responsibility of everyone—federal, state, and local governments; school boards, administrators, and teachers; law enforcement; and families and the public. Here are some things that families and PTAs can do help prevent school violence.

  • Host a PTA Connect for Respect program to help your school develop effective ways to prevent bullying and to create a positive school environment.
  • If you have firearms in your home, ensure that they are kept secure in a manner so that your child cannot access them. This is also a critical factor in preventing youth suicides.
  • Talk with your child about the importance of sharing their concerns with a teacher, parents, or school counselor about another student who may be experiencing difficulties or being bullied, who has shown an interest in violent topics, or who has mentioned suicide or violence.