ATLANTA — A school district here partnered with a nonprofit and state government officials to spread an anti-trafficking message throughout the city on Wednesday using some of its buses.
Gwinnett County Public Schools supplied 72 Type C buses to the nonprofit Street Grace to wrap with anti-human trafficking messages, and drivers for the district drove them through Atlanta, eventually parking near Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The buses were intended to represent a total of 3,600 children trafficked each year in Georgia, according to a post on the nonprofit’s Facebook page.
The goal of the campaign, as stated by Street Grace in a news release, was to “change the conversation from ‘traffic’ to ‘traffick.’”
In addition to drivers, mechanics and other transportation department staff were involved in the campaign, and the district was eager to aid the cause, said Don Moore, the executive director of transportation for Gwinnett County Public Schools.
“Protecting students, this is the kind of thing that’s right up our alley,” Moore said.
Staff members worked on placing the wraps, which convey the severity of human trafficking in the state, on the buses on Dec. 29. Participants met at the district’s bus lot at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday to begin the drive through the city, Moore added.
At the beginning of the route, speakers such as the Georgia Governor-Elect Brian Kemp, Attorney General Chris Carr, and a human trafficking survivor discussed the issue and how citizens can help.
“Every day in Atlanta, people talk about our traffic problem. Today, we urge you to talk about our more serious ‘traffick’ problem,” said Bob Rodgers, president and CEO of Street Grace. “Child sex trafficking is an industry that thrives in darkness. Our goal is to develop a network that will continually shine a light on this issue and put an end to the abuse.”
In addition, Kemp urged people to “learn the warning signs for human trafficking and the appropriate ways to report suspicious activity to law enforcement.”
With Atlanta hosting the Super Bowl in just about one month, public officials have been putting a spotlight on the issue, Moore said.
Attorney General Carr said at the event that "By Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 3, all buyers and traffickers will know that Georgia does not tolerate those who seek to exploit our state's children," FOX 5 Atlanta reports.
The state also recently enacted stronger laws to build cases against traffickers and buyers, according to Street Grace.
Although the district doesn’t currently train drivers and monitors on spotting students who may be victims of trafficking, they are mandated reporters, so the transportation department trains them on looking for signs of abuse in students.
“We may add [trafficking prevention] training to that existing training,” Moore said.