TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida ranks third in the nation for the number of reported cases of human trafficking. One of the many efforts to reduce trafficking in the state would require prevention be taught in schools.
The bill has now cleared two committees in the House and gets its first hearing in the Senate on Tuesday.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline’s website says in 2018 nearly one out of four human trafficking cases in Florida involved a victim under 18.
Representative Patricia Williams says, the illicit industry often targets children.
“Children are our vulnerable part and they're our future. If we don't keep them safe, we won't be safe," said Williams.
Williams is sponsoring the bill that would require health classes taught in Florida schools, include human trafficking prevention and awareness.
Currently 22 or Florida’s 67 districts already have the requirement.
“This course would actually give information of how people actually come up and try to solicit them," said Williams. "They'll know the signs of what to look for. They'll know when people are actually trying to coerce them into doing other things that they are not aware of.”
The Senate bill differs slightly.
It a provision that would require the Department of legal affairs to develop human trafficking awareness campaigns.
It also would establish a human trafficking reporting hotline.
Unlike the Senate, the House version also requires child sex abuse awareness and prevention be included in health courses.
Fely Curva with The Society of Health and Physical Educators says it's an important piece of the puzzle, pointing to 130,000 cases of abuse last year alone.
“Which in reality accounts to approximately 18 counties’ total student enrollment combined. So this is a real issue," said Curva.
Under the legislation, students could opt out of the human trafficking or sex abuse instruction with parental consent