SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - In every part of San Diego County teenagers are at risk of being sex trafficked. District Attorney Summer Stephan says gangs use sophisticated strategies to recruit them.
"The traffickers know exactly who to target," said Stephan. "They find those young girls or boys that don't have anyone to talk to, that feel maybe they're not as smart in school, they don't have a place they belong. They target those kids and use them and recruit them for sex trafficking."
A gang member may become a teenager's "boyfriend" and then use her to recruit more girls.
Stephan says there are important signs educators and administrators need to be aware of.
"They should be looking for the kids that have items, jewelry or a fancy purse that normally they wouldn't be able to afford," she explains.
Stephan says that's where the Empower Educators to Prevent Trafficking Act (H.R. 2268) comes into play.
The bill would allow schools to apply for grants to train a variety of school employees, including teachers, counselors, campus security, nurses and administrators.
Rep. Davis' office says the programs will address:
• Indicators that an individual is a victim or potential victim of sex or labor trafficking.
• Options and procedures for referring students to information on trafficking and legal, social, and health services for victims of trafficking.
• Reporting requirements and procedures, according to federal and state law.
• Training students on how to avoid becoming victims of labor and sex trafficking.
San Diego middle school teacher Judy Newfeld-Fernandez believes it's an important bill.
"Teachers are first-line defense for trafficking, we work with children day-in and day-out and spend lots of time with them. They should be well trained in spotting the signs," said Newfeld-Fernandez.
She's taught children who were once sex trafficked.
"It's painful. Everybody wants children to have that safe in-tact childhood, free from any kind of abuse."
The bill unanimously passed the House and will now go to the Senate.