Virginia General Assembly 2012 Session – SB 259 Human Trafficking: Board of Education to Provide Information for Public Schools

Human trafficking; information for public schools. Requires the Board of Education, with assistance from the Department of Social Services, to provide awareness and training materials for local school divisions on human trafficking, including strategies for the prevention of trafficking of children.

1/26/12 Senate: Reported from Education and Health with amendments (15-Y 0-N)

Senator Adam P. Ebbin, Holly Smith (Survivor and Advocate), Sara Pomeroy (Founder of RJI), James Dold, Esq. (Polaris Project) all appeared before the Committee on Education and Health. The vote of 15-“yes”, 0-“no” is attributed to the outstanding work of Senator Ebbin. He is passionate about this issue and has support all around him.

The Senator’s work in passing the bill is unmistakable, but it was Holly Smith who gave the Committee the most compelling reason to vote “yes”.

Holly Smith began telling her story to the Committee: “I was trafficked in 1992 in the summer after eighth grade middle school graduation. I was 14 years old. After the police obtained my testimony, they began working on the case against my traffickers. I was sent home with no counseling, no guidance, and no support. I attempted suicide within days. In the hospital I was visited by three people who were not immediate family members – my middle school science teacher and two middle school guidance counselors. My teachers were the biggest positive influences in my life. But without understanding what happened to me, my teachers’ ability to help me was limited. Had these teachers been given the tools to support a child victim of sex trafficking I believe not only that my teen years would have been easier but that I would have excelled in school. I was a student worth investing in as I proved by graduating college with a 3.6 GPA in biology. I support this bill which will give teachers the tools to create future leaders out of child victims of sex trafficking. Thank you.”

Words will never explain the “hush” that ushered into Senate Room B while Holly courageously told her story. No one moved, no one spoke, and everyone listened. Committee Chairman Stephen H. Martin acknowledged. “Holly, I am familiar with your entire story. Thank you for coming here today.”

Senator Ebbin met Holly, James and I as we were leaving. We discussed with delight the unanimous vote, and we were all so thankful that we witnessed justice that day. – Ellen Andrusia – RJI Staff Member