The 2022 survey conducted by Busing on the Lookout found that 1 in 3 school transportation professionals have suspected that a student was at risk of being groomed or abused.  -  Image: Busing on the Lookout

The 2022 survey conducted by Busing on the Lookout found that 1 in 3 school transportation professionals have suspected that a student was at risk of being groomed or abused.

Image: Busing on the Lookout

If it weren’t already enough that school bus drivers are critical to making sure that students get from home to school and back safely every day, it turns out they can be just as crucial in saving children from human trafficking.

In 2022, Busing on the Lookout surveyed more than 400 transportation partners and determined that 60% of school transportation professionals have seen at least one sign counted among the red flag indicators for human trafficking.

The survey gathered data from events in Colorado, Kansas, Virginia, and Wyoming, with a mix of urban, suburban, and rural areas.

“Overall, the survey confirmed the important role school bus drivers and other school transportation staff can play in keeping the students they transport every day safe from trafficking and exploitation,” said Lexi Higgins, director for Busing on the Lookout (BOTL) and Truckers Against Trafficking. “Industry members are already noticing potential signs of exploitation in the course of their everyday jobs, as illustrated by the fact that 60% of survey participants had noticed at least one of our red flag indicators in a student on one of their buses.”

Higgins noted that while this might not mean human trafficking or exploitation in every one of those situations, it does indicate that school transportation professionals are positioned to see the signs and, with proper training, can report suspicions to the right place.

The survey found that bus drivers are reporting concerns to supervisors (34.3%), principals and school administrators (25.5%), transportation directors (11.8%), and counselors (10.8%).

Which red flag indicators are observed most often? According to the BOTL survey:

  • Inappropriate dress for the weather or school (59.2%)
  • Mood swings, such as frequent crying, temper tantrums, or clingy behavior (46.1%).
  • Symptoms of anger, panic, irritability, phobia, or hyperactivity that weren’t there before (35.9%).
  • Accumulation of frequent absences (32.2%).
  • Any mention that a student has an older boyfriend (28.6%).

In Iowa, the Department of Education earned recognition in 2022 for its efforts in getting all 9,000 of its school bus drivers trained to recognize the signs of human trafficking.

“Unfortunately, there are some adults who would prefer to exploit and profit from our kids rather than protect them,” said Max Christensen, Iowa’s state director of student transportation. “With this training, we have the eyes and ears of over 9,000 school bus drivers who come into contact with over half our students every day, monitoring any changes in personality of their student passengers. While most changes will not be due to a child being trafficked, some may, and our drivers can now recognize those signs.”

What’s your district doing to fight this problem?

For information and training materials about how to respond to signs of grooming, trafficking, and exploitation, visit www.busingonthelookout.org. Know someone who needs help? Contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

Author

Wes Platt
Wes Platt

Executive Editor

Wes Platt joined Bobit in 2021 as executive editor of School Bus Fleet Magazine.

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Wes Platt joined Bobit in 2021 as executive editor of School Bus Fleet Magazine.

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