GUELPH – The Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) has developed an anti-sex trafficking protocol, with plans to begin training staff and students in the fall.
In a Jan. 25 board meeting, UGDSB superintendent of education Pat Hamilton provided an information report on the development of the protocol.
In July, the Ministry of Education released PPM 166 – a policy framework for school board anti-sex trafficking protocols – in an effort to continue to respond to issues surrounding student safety.
The UGDSB received $19,032 in funding from the ministry to implement the protocol and provide training for staff and students.
In response to “suspected sex trafficking occurrences,” the ministry directed school boards to establish a protocol by Jan. 31.
“The protocol outlines the process for identifying, investigating and responding to instances of suspected sex trafficking,” Hamilton said in the meeting.
“Human and sex trafficking is a worldwide concern, however, often the level of its prevalence in our own communities is understated and underestimated.”
Hamilton stressed the importance of the board recognizing the average age of recruitment into sex trafficking in Canada is 13 years old.
“School children and youth are the prime targets and it’s crucial for our students and all of those who work with students to become aware, recognize the warning signs and know how to respond,” he explained.
Hamilton pointed out there’s been extensive consultations with the board’s community partners as they’ve worked to develop the protocol and the training resources to support it.
The board has consulted with several community groups, including:
- Family and Children’s Services of Guelph Wellington;
- Dufferin Child and Family Services;
- Canadian Mental Health Association;
- Victim Services Guelph Wellington;
- Guelph-Wellington Women-in-Crisis, who Hamilton noted will help deliver the training;
- Guelph Police Service;
- Immigrant Services Guelph-Wellington;
- UGDSB Equity, Diversity and Inclusion staff;
- child and youth counsellors;
- social workers;
- UGDSB mental health staff;
- UGDSB student senate;
- UGDSB school administration, elementary and secondary; and
- Wellington Catholic District School Board.
Hamilton also noted the board’s First Nation, Métis, Inuit Education Council will be reviewing the protocol and providing UGDSB staff with guidance on the development of resources to support Indigenous students.
“Taking the time to do this right is of the utmost importance as we know that Indigenous young people are disproportionately affected by human sex trafficking,” he explained.
As for implementation of the protocol, community experts will conduct training with the board’s principals and vice principals at the elementary and secondary levels in August.
All staff will be trained as part of the board’s mandatory training on the professional development day ahead of the start of the 2022-23 school year.
As part of UGDSB staff orientation, all new staff will also be required to complete the anti-sex trafficking protocol training.
Student awareness training and community training workshops will begin in September.
The report notes the protocol will be an ongoing process that will be updated regularly based on consultation with the board’s community partners.
“As we all know, educators play a powerful role in safeguarding the mental health and well-being of all our school-aged children,” Hamilton said.
“Education staff can spot the warning signs and safely connect those who are, have been or are at risk of being trafficked to the appropriate supports and culturally responsive, responsive community programs and services.”