By Dominic J Larsen, Clarion News Editor
Thursday, January 11 marked the eleventh anniversary of Human Trafficking Awareness Day, with the whole of January being named Human Trafficking Awareness Month by President Barack Obama as of 2010.
Students on the Kennedy campus took to the halls with red X’s marking their hands, acting as an insignia to showcase their opposition to human trafficking. Wefor(S)he (a club dedicated to raising awareness on the subject of human trafficking) and a number of concerned students at school decided to take a stand of solidarity following recent developments in uncovered staff behavior.
Danke Stroup, president of Wefor(S)he, oriented the club meeting the week upon arrival from winter break to focus on the horrific incident that occured over the holidays.
Speaking to club members, Stroup stated, “The red X’s are a statement used by the END IT MOVEMENT whose goal is to raise awareness about modern-day slavery. Our goal was to spark conversation on Human Trafficking Awareness Day, which just happened to be the very week we came back from break, where we found out about our former boys’ varsity soccer coach.”
Christmas morning, Elan Seagraves, varsity boys’ soccer coach and Uber/Lyft driver, was arrested by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. Seagraves was apprehended by law enforcement after a 911 call was made by a seventeen year-old girl, who was a victim to Seagraves’ alleged pimping operation. According to the Sacramento Bee, he was charged with pandering, false imprisonment, and human trafficking, which are all felonies. He currently awaits trial, and a bail of $2,000,000 has been set by the courts.
Following the charges brought against Coach Seagraves, the direction of the Wefor(S)he club has not veered from its original trajectory, with the club leadership commenting, “We believe that because of this incident we will be able to have an assembly for the entire school…the assembly will have a representative from WEAVE speak about abusive relationships, which is often a gateway into sex trafficking.”
In speaking to Assistant Principal Michael Fry, the Clarion discovered that an assembly with guest speakers is not a long shot, as the administration is working closely with the prominent club to put this plan into motion.
Fry emphatically reaffirmed the administration’s commitment to preventing incidents, such as these, stating, “The Kennedy Administration has never had any tolerance for such behavior, and had we the slightest reason to believe such conduct was going on, we would have worked with the district to investigate. Our resolve to protect our students and all children has been, and remains our primary focus.”
Kennedy Principal David Van Natten added on to the statements of both Mr. Fry and earlier memos issued by the school district, “These were very disturbing allegations, they would be disturbing no matter what, but there is somebody who has had access to students, somebody who is trusted by families, and it was disturbing to say the very least.”
In addition to the assembly, currently unscheduled as of yet, the administration has set forth plans to combat unwarranted behavior. These actions will include the continuation of sexual harassment workshops for faculty and a review of the current background check policy.
Van Natten went on to elaborate the mandated training, “Once a year, staff, all faculty and staff, are required to undergo Title IX training, which encompasses sexual harassment and also mandated reporter training. That is required once a year.”
Also described in the meeting with Clarion reporters was the district policy on background checks and the hiring of school personnel. “It is a Department of Justice check, so you go in; this is true for any school district employee whether it be teacher, principal, coach, plant manager, custodian, you go in and they fingerprint you. Those fingerprints are sent to the Department of Justice, and the DOJ responds to the district…” The school then receives confirmation if the prospective personnel is cleared or not. The principal also explained that if any staff members are arrested that the school district will be directly notified, in the effort to promote safety and awareness.
On the topic of background checks, many parents were concerned as to the effectiveness of the vetting used during the hiring process. Communicating with soccer parents along with other families, Van Natten reassured the district’s usage of the current background checks, “I know the district is reviewing their [background check] process. Obviously [Kennedy] has reviewed ours, and everything was in place… At the site, we will continue to do applicant reference checks…” He continued on, stating that securities put in place could “…only go so far.”
With the combined efforts of student activism and the administrative staff’s promised actions, the campus has the ability to use this tragic attack to further advocate for the victims of gruesome sexual assault and human trafficking cases.
The principal voiced his aspiration for the school, “My hope is that the impact will raise awareness and that there will be a push to better educate…the good that I hope that comes out of this is that there is a renewed commitment to allocating resources to stop it. I think that the more people who are educated about it and the more folks that know how to spot the early signs, the more likely we are to be able stop it.”
The administration pressed the importance of communication between the students and adults on campus, “This really speaks to third parties, if you witness something… report it. We would rather have students report something and give us the opportunity to look into it and find out there is nothing to it, than have somebody see something or hear something and think, ehh probably nothing to it and then turns out there was something to it.”
For this communication to occur, a level of comfort and trust must exist among those on campus. “My hope is that every student on campus, there is at least one adult with whom they have a relationship that is strong enough, that they feel comfortable reporting information,” expressed Van Natten, when asked about his stances on communication with the student body.
Anyone who has been a victim of human trafficking or has knowledge of those, or have been affected by this act of slavery, please reach out and report the problem. The phone number for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center is 1 (888) 373-7888.