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Local educators taught about the perils of human trafficking

'Ontario is now the first province in Canada to require an anti-sex trafficking strategy in all school boards ... with a singular focus on protecting your child’s safety'
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Would your child know what to do if approached by a sex trafficker?

The Simcoe County District School Board and the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board have unveiled new anti sex-trafficking protocols, which provide resources for teachers and parents, as well as curriculum for students.

The program was based on direction from the Ministry of Education that all Ontario school boards develop protocols that are tailored to the needs of their specific communities to keep students safe from sexual exploitation.

“The resources and training for all school-based staff is mandatory and intended to educate staff so they are able to identify and recognize sex trafficking, and play a key role in prevention,” said Sarah Kekewich, manager of communications with the public board. “Staff are also required to follow response guidelines, as outlined in the policy, to facilitate appropriate interventions.”

In Simcoe County, the protocol was developed in consultation with a variety of local resources including:

  • Barrie Police’s human trafficking unit
  • Dnaagdawenmag Binnoojiiyag Child and Family Services
  • Huronia Transition Homes
  • Mental health leads with both the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board and the Simcoe County District School Board
  • Ontario Native Women’s Association
  • Rama First Nation
  • Resources from Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls as well as Their Voices will Guide Us
  • Simcoe Muskoka Family Connexions (SMFC)
  • South Simcoe Police Services
  • Women and Children's Shelter of Barrie

As part of the teacher protocols, teachers now have training resources to help them recognize the signs of sex trafficking, so they can more safely intervene if they suspect a student may be in a trafficking situation. Training will emphasize how to respond to immediate dangers and the need to avoid actions that will make an individual's situation worse or more unsafe.

Students will continue to learn through the physical education curriculum about healthy and consensual relationships, and new digital literacy resources are also being developed for students, families and staff to be launched at a later time.w

Resources for parents/guardians and children over 12 include videos developed by non-profit One-Child that are also being shared through the Catholic board.

“We continue to build upon strategies to increase awareness so that we are all better equipped to prevent and respond to situations. We know that human trafficking is a real concern in our communities because of the highway corridor,” said Lonnie Bolton, superintendent of student services with the Catholic school board, in an emailed statement.

“Our approach is to address this difficult topic in different ways for everyone in our communities and this includes training for staff, awareness opportunities for parents and age-appropriate learning for students.”

In addition to videos and webinars, the Catholic board also covers the topic in their Beyond the Bell podcast.

In July 2021, the ministry of education first put out the call for school boards to put together their own policies, pledging $2.4 million in funding for that purpose.

"Sex trafficking is an evil crime that preys on children and our most vulnerable. While we continue to crack down on violent offenders, we are focused on the prevention of this crime – and that starts in Ontario schools,” said Minister of Education Stephen Lecce at that time.

“Ontario is now the first province in Canada to require an anti-sex trafficking strategy in all school boards – for every provincially funded school, in all regions of our province. Ontario schools will increasingly play a critical role in preventing, identifying and recognizing the signs of sex trafficking with a singular focus on protecting your child’s safety. "

For more information on the SCDSB’s new protocol, click here.

For more information on the SMCDSB’s policy, click here.

SEE THE SIGNS: Here are some signs to watch for if you suspect your child is being lured online or in person:

  • An adult or someone inappropriately older has taken a keen interest in them
  • Regular lying and unexplained absences from school or home
  • A new friend or boyfriend who is controlling
  • A whole different group of friends (interested in drugs/alcohol/partying), and those who are much older
  • Carrying false ID
  • Calls to her/his phone from unknown numbers that can’t or won’t be explained/secretive or excessive time on the phone
  • Regular visits to places inappropriate for their age – clubs, motels, hotels, even coffee shops at odd hours of the morning/night
  • Distancing from friends and family
  • New accounts on Kik, Discord, MyLOL, Gmail, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat and a refusal to share passwords
  • Inappropriate levels of anger when they’re not allowed to use their favourite social media apps
  • Expensive gifts like purses, clothes, lingerie and makeup not purchased by her/him
  • A dramatic change in hygiene
  • Rapid weight loss or sometimes rapid weight gain
  • Unexplained bruises, sores, scars or broken bones
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Distinct shift in personality – from extrovert to introvert or from introvert to provocative

Source: One-Child


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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen is an experienced journalist working for Village Media since 2018, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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