Public board a leader in fight against sex trafficking

It was the first school board in Ontario to develop resources to help prevent and respond to sex trafficking and today, the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) is sharing those resources with other school boards to help them meet new requirements to develop an anti-sex trafficking protocol.

“We want to thank our community partners for identifying a need, sharing information and working with us to develop a coordinated and sensitive approach to protecting our students,” says Board Chair Allan Tam.

YRSDB began working with community partners like Bridgenorth, Covenant House, 360kids, Women’s Support Network, Aura Freedom, U R Home and York Regional Police in 2017-2018 to develop training, resources and curriculum to address sex-trafficking. It has also developed a sex trafficking response protocol and quick guide, along with scripts to support student disclosures or suspicions to administrators and educators.  The board has provided training to vice-principals and principals as well as school staff who work with students who are most vulnerable, including guidance counsellors and social workers. It has posted information and resources for families on its website and has developed resources and curriculum for students in Grades 7 to 12.

This past summer, the provincial government released a new policy framework – described as the first of its kind in Canada – as part of its strategy for school boards to protect students from sex trafficking, which is a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada.

“We were so pleased that the research and work we did in collaboration with community partners could be used to inform the Ministry’s framework, and to support the work of our colleagues in other boards,” says Director of Education Louise Sirisko. “While they may have different contexts, it is important that we collaborate and share knowledge to protect our students and vulnerable populations, and that we do so in a way that is centred around equity and anti-oppression.”

The average age of recruitment into sex trafficking is 13 years old, the provincial government reports. Human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing crimes worldwide. Ontario is a hub for human trafficking, with the most police-reported incidents of human trafficking in the country occurring here in 2019, accounting for about 55 per cent of all police-reported incidents of human trafficking nationally.

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