Fort Smith lawmaker pushes for human trafficking education in public schools

KNWA

FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA) — A Fort Smith lawmaker is pushing for public schools to teach students about human trafficking.

Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of of labor or commercial sex act, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

State Rep. Cindy Crawford, the Chief Executive Officer at Tree of Life and Hannah House in Fort Smith, says its more common than some may think.

“It’s happening here in Fort Smith. It’s happening in Fayetteville. It’s happening in northwest Arkansas. It’s happening all around us, beside us,” she said.

She’s in the early stages of drafting legislation that would require human trafficking to be taught to students in public schools.

Crawford says human trafficking can be as easy as chatting with a stranger online. “We did a good job at ‘don’t talk to strangers,’ so now we’re going to have to put that in electronic form to our very young citizens.”

The legislation would mirror Arkansas Act 765, which mandates human trafficking awareness education for teachers.

As CEO of Hannah House, a non-profit for women in crisis, the cause hits close to home. “One was being sold by her mother, and the other was being sold by her husband…so it is dear and near to me,” she describes.

On Wednesday Crawford met with Fort Smith police, Sheriff Hobe Runion, pastors, the Morgan Nick Foundation, and women who have experienced human trafficking.

“These young women who have experienced the atrocity of sex trafficking are going to help us to pull together the curriculum, and all the things we need to touch the community in a positive way,” Crawford said.

Crawford is hoping to continue the conversation and make it law.

“The Morgan Nick Foundation said you’re going to have to start very softly at Kindergarten,” she said. “It would need to be a program that would already be a class in school.”

She’s hoping to have the legislation ready by January 2021.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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