This pin may be a surprise to many tour takers. While human trafficking occurs in many Oakland locations, it is difficult and surprising to even consider that schools are a primary location for the recruitment of and trafficking of minors.
The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is an interesting location on this tour because it is the only pin that signifies both a place where human trafficking occurs, and a place that is an important resource for the prevention of human trafficking.
On The Oakland Unified School District’s website, a letter from Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley and Superintendent Atwan Wilson clearly outlines the issue of human trafficking in Oakland. The letter states that OUSD launched a sexually exploited minors task force in 2010 to “address the needs of exploited students and develop education programs to prevent sexual exploitation.” Since 2010 OUSD has trained over 200 counselors and school health providers and school police officers on responses to students at risk for sexual exploitation. OUSD’s website also lists resources and a link to a student produced video “The Track.”
In 2013 OUSD began planning a program of early intervention through education. Using a curriculum created by Love Never Fails, a major Bay Area anti-trafficking organization, OUSD has a goal of educating every 7th grader about healthy relationships and how to avoid human trafficking. The curriculum is aimed towards male students with a special focus on deterring pimping (SF Chronicle).
The Oakland Unified School district is significant to each student who passes through the system. Because the average age of girls in Oakland who are trafficked is 12, school can be an important resource that can offer protection as well as education. It is noteworthy that OUSD is aware of the problem and is working to be a part of the solution.
Some warning signs that teachers and officials have been taught to look out for include:
-Excessive unexplained absences from school
-Being picked up from school by an older man who is not a relative
-Change in demeanor or style in an attempt to look older
-Unexplained bruises or other injuries
-Tattoos or branding
-An ongoing pattern of running away from home or foster care
-Girls attending school with their hair and nails done, wearing fancy clothing, carrying designer purses who previously did not dress in that way. (SF Chronicle)
OUSD will contribute to my tour because it will not only help tour takers realize the severity of the situation but it will also show them that OUSD is taking an active role in preventing human trafficking. Also, the very fact that Oakland schools are involved in fighting this issue is noteworthy. How many school districts in the United States have a special section of their website dedicated to human trafficking? The OUSD’s website shows not only that the problem is real in Oakland, but that it is being acknowledged and addressed by Oakland schools.