January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, which makes it the perfect opportunity to share information about the role school transportation professionals can play in the fight against human trafficking.

By definition, human trafficking is the exploitation of human beings through force, fraud or coercion for the purposes of either commercial sex or forced labor. There are cases reported each year in all 50 states, including thousands of child victims. For most of these victims, their trafficker is someone they know; a family member, a coach or mentor, or perhaps someone they’ve met online and come to trust. And, many child victims continue attending school during the day - and riding the school bus - even while they are being trafficked or groomed behind the scenes.

This means that schools can play an incredibly important role in preventing and interrupting child trafficking. School bus drivers are often overlooked as an integral piece of these safe school environments. In Minnesota, nearly 90% of the state’s public school students ride the school bus daily. For those children, school bus drivers are the first adult they see at the start of their school day, and the last they see before returning home each afternoon.

Busing on the Lookout (BOTL) is on a mission to get every school transportation employee in North America equipped and educated to combat human trafficking. BOTL’s free training materials provide industry-specific information about the issue, how to recognize it, and what steps to take if you suspect a trafficking situation. To date, 100,000 individuals have joined the BOTL movement with pupil transportation parters in 36 states.

Every school bus driver cares about the safety and wellbeing of the children they transport daily, and this is one more way they can play a role in keeping them safe. Here are three ways any school transportation employee can combat human trafficking, this month and beyond:

1.      Be on the lookout for signs of human trafficking and know how to report it. BOTL’s online training takes less than an hour to complete. You can alsodownload the BOTL app for more information.

2.      Continue to learn more about child trafficking. Seek out survivor stories and perspectives. Start with thissurvivor gallery from Polaris or this podcast episode on familial trafficking.

3.      Protect the youth in your life. Any child can be at-risk for exploitation. Consider having conversations about online safety and child trafficking with your children, grandchildren, nieces/nephews, etc.

If you’d like to learn more about BOTL, please visit our website: https://truckersagainsttrafficking.org/pupil-transportation/