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Christensen receives award for work combating human trafficking of children

Date: 
Thursday, January 13, 2022
Max Christensen received an Outstanding Anti-Trafficking Service Award

Max Christensen received an Outstanding Anti-Trafficking Service Award

It takes a village is an understatement when it comes to protecting Iowa’s youth from the tragedy of human trafficking. Aware of the dangers, Max Christensen, head of school transportation services at the Iowa Department of Education along with the statewide team of dedicated school bus drivers and trainers he leads help ensure Iowa’s children receive an extra measure of care when traveling to and from school.

Governor Reynolds and the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery have recognized Christensen’s efforts to keep Iowa’s children safe and awarded him the Outstanding Anti-Trafficking Service Award.

In 2018, under Christensen’s leadership, Iowa was the first in the nation to develop and implement mandatory, specialized anti-human trafficking training for all school bus drivers. Bus drivers interact with students on a daily basis and are well positioned to identify possible signs of human trafficking and take appropriate steps to get help.

Max Christensen

Max Christensen

“Max Christensen’s contribution to Iowa’s fight against human trafficking is truly outstanding,” said Dr. George Belitsos, Chair of the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery. “In the fall of 2018, Iowa became the nation’s first state to require training about human trafficking for its school bus drivers. Despite the disruption of the COVID pandemic, all 9,000 Iowa school bus drivers are now trained. The Iowa Department of Education and its School Transportation Services Department deserve recognition for moving this human trafficking training requirement forward.”

Since 2018, returning drivers receive updates during their annual training. Iowa has approximately 1,000 new school bus drivers every year who receive the full training which consists of viewing the DVD Make the Call, Save Lives, and will receive wallet cards which include information about red flag indicators, questions to ask students, actionable information law enforcement needs to open an investigation, and national hotline numbers. Drivers also receive information on a Busing on the Lookout School Bus Drivers one pager, participate in a question-and-answer session, and take a required quiz based on what they learned about human trafficking.

The second-largest criminal activity in the world (drug trafficking is first) and commonly described as modern-day slavery, human trafficking is the exploitation of human beings through force, fraud or coercion for the purposes of commercial sex or forced labor. It is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that steals freedom for profit.

Of the approximately 27 million human trafficking victims worldwide, thousands are school-age children. Approximately half of all school-age children in the United States ride a school bus, and in Iowa, 250,000 do so daily. Given the convenience of two major intersecting interstate highways (80 and 35), Des Moines is one of the highest human trafficking areas in the nation.

“While adults are supposed to protect children, there are a few unscrupulous adults who exploit and profit from the horrendous crime of human trafficking,” Christensen said. “School bus drivers, whose prime job is to protect children, are in contact with about half the kids in Iowa daily. This gives the drivers a unique opportunity to monitor and note changes they may see in their passengers – changes that may well be due to trafficking. With over 9,000 school bus drivers in the state of Iowa watching and listening, our hope is to help extinguish this terrible crime from our state.”

Below are some of the most common signs that a child is being trafficked:

  • Unexpected, frequent absences from school
  • Signs of neglect, appears malnourished or unkempt
  • Bruises/physical trauma
  • Signs of drug addiction
  • Changes in attire, material possessions, unexplained gifts, all the latest gadgets (traffickers will often groom their victims by showering them with attention, affection, and purchased items in order to earn trust and affection)
  • Tattoos (a form of branding, displaying the name or moniker of a trafficker)
  • Fearful demeanor, uncomfortable with a certain individual or individuals
  • Major changes in behavior, uncontrollable anger or crying, emotional highs and lows

For more in-depth information, visit:

U.S. Department of Education 2021 report, Human Trafficking in America’s Schools

U. S. Department of Education Human Trafficking webpage

Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery

National Human Trafficking Hotline Data

U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline 2019 Data Report

Busing on the Lookout (BOTL) webpage and materials

National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-3737-888

View school transportation training video

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Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on May 18, 2022 at 1:34pm.