This week, the two chairs of the Florida congressional delegation teamed up on a proposal to educate children on the signs of human trafficking.
Noting that more than half of human trafficking victims are children, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., introduced the “ Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Training Act” with U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., as a co-sponsor.
The bill would set aside $75 million in grants over the next five years which would be run by the Office of Trafficking in Person in the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Department. The grants would be used to “provide training for students, teachers and other school personnel on the warning signs of human trafficking” and “would be issued to nonprofit organizations that have shown expertise in creating and teaching human trafficking and exploitation prevention curricula.”
Areas with high amounts of human trafficking would be given priority in getting the grants. In 2019, Florida had the third-highest number of calls on human trafficking made to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
“Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery,” Buchanan said on Wednesday. “As schools reopen this week, we need to educate students and teachers about the horrors of human trafficking. This is critical to helping current victims and preventing future instances of trafficking, which is especially important in hotspots like Florida. I look forward to working with Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz to end this vile and monstrous crime.”
The Selah Way Foundation, which is headquartered in Sarasota, is backing the proposal.
“It is time to educate our children and school systems across the nation to prevent sex trafficking and exploitation,” said Elizabeth Fisher Good, the co-founder, president, and CEO of the Selah Way Foundation. “The Selah Way’s S.P.E.A.K. UP Train-The-Trainer Prevention Curriculum equips and empowers entire school systems including faculty, staff, and students, to do just that. This plight has silenced the voice of countless children in our own backyard and has often left educators feeling helpless to protect students. We are saying, ‘no more… not on our watch!’
“We at the Selah Way Foundation applaud US Representatives Vern Buchanan and Deborah Wasserman Schultz for their leadership and relentless passion to protect our children,” she added.
The bill was sent to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. So far, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.
Buchanan has taken up the bill from the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., who died earlier this year. Back in September 2019, Hastings introduced the proposal with Buchanan as the main co-sponsor. The 2019 bill had than 20 cosponsors in the House including U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., Al Lawson, D-Fla., Brian Mast, R-Fla., Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla., Donna Shalala, D-Fla., Darren Soto, D-Fla., Ross Spano, R-Fla., Greg Steube, R-Fla., Wasserman Schultz and Michael Waltz, R-Fla. Mucarsel-Powell, Shalala, and Spano were defeated in their bids for reelection last year.
Over in the U.S. Senate, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has championed the bill in recent years.