Florida lawmakers want to educate students about human trafficking and child abuse. In 2018, Florida ranked 3rd in the nation for reports of human trafficking, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
The recent discovery of a human trafficking ring in Central and South Florida has also prompted lawmakers and state leaders to revisit the issue.
“I think we all know that Florida has been in some ways ground zero for human trafficking, so I’m supportive of our attorney general’s efforts," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said. "I am certainly open to looking at legislation that will be able to address it.”
Attorney General Ashley Moody is Chair of a Statewide Council on human trafficking. It works with law enforcement and legislators to combat the issue.
Meanwhile in the legislature, Rep. Patricia Williams (D-Broward) has a bill that would require K-12 schools’ health classes to include lessons on the dangers and warning signs of human trafficking.
“As a representative, as a citizen of the united state of Florida, as a parent, there is no cost amount that is too great for us to invest in our children," Williams said. "We are hoping that 259 will save lives. We’re hoping that this will shine the light on the darkness that we have here.”
The bill also draws attention to child abuse. Fely Curva, a lobbyist for the Society of Health and Physical Educators, says the issue is widespread among Florida schools.
“It’s been something that’s been emanating and a lot of our schools have been reporting it as well," Curva said. "It affects hundreds of thousands of students and children every year in the state of Florida. The proposed changes in this bill will help educate other subject area teachers as well as students at all grade levels across the state to recognize and respond not only to human trafficking but to child abuse situations as well.”
Curva also cited 2018 data from the Department of Children & Families. It reports more than 130,000 children were involved with investigations for neglect or abuse last year.
A similar bill in the Senate is scheduled for a committee hearing Tuesday.