Iowa leads in fighting human trafficking with school bus drivers

WHO-TV

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Around a quarter million kids ride the bus to Iowa schools each day. Their safety is a school bus driver's number one priority.  "They're our kids when they are on the bus.  It's a huge responsibility but it is a great reward," said Robin Witt, Safety and Training Specialist with the Des Moines Public School District.  

Safety is not always guaranteed beyond the school bus walls.  

The United Nations International Children's Fund estimates up to half of all human trafficking victims may be children, which is something the Iowa Department of Transportation has spent years cracking down on.  

Dave Lorenzen, Chief of Motor Vehicle Enforcement said, "Unfortunately we have seen human trafficking cases that can be as young as 10,11,and 12 years old."

The alarming trend caused the Iowa Department of Education to take action. WHO Channel 13 reports Iowa is the first state to require human trafficking training for all school bus drivers.  "This training is going to help make everybody just be more alert," said Witt.

Drivers will watch videos, read literature and even be quizzed on signs to spot human trafficking.  "These bus drivers see these kids every day and they can tell if there is something not going right," said Chief Lorenzen.

Wisconsin police recently arrested a man named Jake Patterson who allegedly abducted 13-year-old Jayme Closs for three months and killed both her parents.  Authorities said Patterson came up with the idea after spotting the teen get off a school bus near her home.  

On Thursday, Governor Kim Reynolds is expected to sign a proclamation declaring the month of January slavery and human trafficking prevention and awareness month.

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