Teaching the Teachers How to Fight Sex Trafficking

Teachers can be the first line of defense against child sex trafficking, according to Maria Velikonja, a former FBI agent who has worked on human trafficking issues for the United Nations. During a two-day conference on sex trafficking at Georgia State University, in Atlanta, Velikonja spoke about the warning signs educators should watch for in their students and what teachers can do to keep their students safe. The conference, Not in Georgia: Combating Human Sex Trafficking, organized by the Georgia Department of Education, was the third part of an ongoing series of lectures on the sex trade. In a lecture titled, “Combating Human Sex Trafficking in Georgia: What Public School Educators Can Do,” Velikonja began by outlining some of the basics of sex trafficking for teachers. “What does a potential sex trafficking victim look like?” she asked the small crowd.

Truancy Intervention Project: "Why Don’t They Go To School?"

Seven years ago, South Atlanta High School student Faydren Battle had the weight of the world on her shoulders. Problems at home and problems with her boyfriend kept her on edge and out of school. She says her life turned around when truancy charges landed her in court and introduced her to the Truancy Intervention Project, co-founded by former Fulton County Juvenile Court Chief Judge Glenda Hatchett and Terry Walsh, then President of the Atlanta Bar Association. The non-profit works closely with children who skip school (and their families) to address the underlying problems that keep them out of the classroom. Battle, now 25, is one of thousands of success stories the organization has celebrated over its 19-year history.

Report: Teachers Happy With Reforms

An overwhelming majority of juvenile justice teachers appear to be satisfied with reforms of the system that took place five years ago. According to researchers at Georgia State University and Auburn University, 96 percent of juvenile justice teachers “reported being satisfied with the results of the system-wide reforms.”

“The greatest areas of dissatisfaction were in the areas of behavior management and increased stress,” says an abstract to their study, “System Reform and Job Satisfaction of Juvenile Justice Teachers.”

The study was based on a survey administered to teachers who had been in the system since 1998, when reforms were implemented. “A comprehensive survey was administered to teachers who had been in the juvenile justice system since 1998 when reform measures were implemented.”

Judge Warns Budget Cuts “Will Have a Crippling Effect on Juvenile Justice in Georgia.”

Many people charged with carrying out juvenile justice in Georgia are concerned about how new state budget cuts will affect children, communities, and the system overall. “I just fear that there’s going to be less policing done on juvenile behavior,” says Early County Sheriff Jimmy Murkerson, of Governor Sonny Perdue’s recent order that the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and other state agencies amend their 2011 budget proposals with plans for four, six and eight percent cuts. “The general public seems to feel that [law enforcement] should be handling every offense from sagging pants to curfew violations, but you’ve got to have the manpower to address these minor issues. With these cuts that manpower just won’t be there.”

Gwinnett County Juvenile Judge Stephen Franzen echoes a similar sentiment. “Our ability to respond to the needs of kids and the community is going to be severely damaged,” he says.