PEA RIDGE, Ark. (KNWA) –Teachers at Pea Ridge Intermediate School are learning how to prevent and intervene in sex trafficking situations.
The training Monday, February 18, came from the non-profit Youth Bridge based in Fayetteville.
After seeing an increase in victimization, the organization decided to branch out to help the community.
The Director of Clinical Services at Youth Bridge, Michael Flowers, said, “drugs can be sold one product at a time, but in sex trafficking, a victim can be sold multiple times every day.”
Flowers and his team at Youth Bridge are dedicated to helping sex trafficking victims, especially kids.
“The stats in Arkansas are very alarming,” Flowers said. “We are consistently at the bottom in taking care of our children.”
He’s setting out to change this by arming the people closest to kids with knowledge — the teachers at Pea Ridge Intermediate.
“Our educators are on the front lines,” he said.
Flowers said in the perspective of sex traffickers, the younger the kids are, the easier they are to prey on.
Liz Lee, a teacher at Pea Ridge Intermediate, said, “a lot of the statistics he [Flowers] gave about students walking to school by themselves, coming from parents that are divorced, or have addiction at home definitely resonates because a lot of our students come from homes like that.”
So, how can teachers present this sensitive subject to kids at such a young age?
“Being a reading teacher, we would find maybe books on topics that are fiction or non-fiction and help, kind of talk about some of these situations that are difficult topics and bring it down to a fourth-grade level,” Lee said.
Pea Ridge School District Superintendent Rick Neal said, “We’ve completely remodeled our whole school safety and security plan. It’s an ongoing document, an ongoing piece of work, and this is just one piece of it.”