Colorado school district on the lookout for human trafficking

Cyber Safe

Law enforcement agencies are teaming up with local school leaders to help them know when a student is in trouble.

Deputy Jay Martin of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office shared his knowledge with a packed auditorium at Lewis-Palmer High School Friday.  

“These kids are growing up talking to devices, not people,” Martin said. “They don’t have emotional intelligence. That’s the reason we’re teaching this class.”

Martin is part of D.A.R.E., a program geared toward getting kids away from gangs and drugs. In 2009, the sheriff’s office switched to the Digital Futures Initiative, a program created to empower instructors and parents with resources and solutions. The topics vary from cyberbullying to addiction. Friday’s focus was on human trafficking. 

“These traffickers play on the emotions,” Martin said. “They’re playing on those feelings and making them feel wanted and loved. That’s what every kid or adult wants. We all want to be liked and cared.”

Martin said children who use phones can become emotionally detached to human interaction–easy targets for human trafficking. 

Karen Brofft is the superintendent of Lewis-Palmer schools. She set up the event in an effort to be proactive. Any teacher in attendance receives upper education credit. More importantly, they become part of the solution.

“We want to make sure staff are aware of the warning signs of potential victims,” Brofft said.

One of the signs a student may be in trouble with trafficking is an obsession with the cell phone. Brofft admitted this could be any teen and their phone. She said these victims would be more concerned about answering phone calls and texts constantly. They may even be worried.  

Other warning signs include changes in clothing, looks, and personality. Hanging out with a new set of friends, especially older people, can also be a warning sign. 

“People don’t think it’s a problem but it is,” Martin said. “We’ve had cases in this district and recently in a neighboring school district. Human trafficking is everywhere.”

For more signs to look out for and resources for parents, head to the Digital Futures Initiative at https://dfinow.org/ .

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