This school year has brought its share of challenges for Montana parents, including a big decision: to send their children back to the classroom or keep their students at home and continue remote learning.
Even if parents choose to go back to the classroom, that doesn’t necessarily mean a more traditional setting of being at school all week long. Block schedules have been the plan for several school districts, putting partial remote learning back at home and devices in the hands of children.
It’s during idle times that parents need to be wary about, according to the Montana Department of Justice (MTDOJ), and the big concern is children going on sites that have chat rooms. Andy Yedinak, supervisor for the MTDOJ's Human Trafficking Team, said predators could have access to children in those chat rooms.
He also said Montana's small-town feeling can sometimes leave holes for parents to not take human or sex trafficking seriously. But Yedinak said cases of human trafficking do happen in the state, and the he's anticipating a rise in cases.
“From 2018 to 2019, we saw a 65.2% increase in our cases when it comes to human trafficking, and as a result of that we were able to rescue 17.6% more victims than what has been seen before," he said. "And I anticipate that in 2019 to the end of 2020, those numbers are probably going to go up."
For parents or anyone that is concerned and wants to report a crime but does not want to contact law enforcement, there is an option: The Polaris Project, which serves as an advocate for victims and those who want to make a report.
To contact the United States Human Trafficking Hotline, text “Be free” to 233733 or call 1-888-373-7888 (TTY: 711).