Baylor Research Shows Impact of Human Trafficking Curriculum for High School Students

January 26, 2018

Findings demonstrate ‘Bodies are not Commodities’ lessons increase students' awareness and advocacy

Media contact: Tonya B. Hudson, (254) 710-4656
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WACO, Texas (Jan. 26, 2018) – The prevalence of human trafficking is on the rise. Researchers estimate that, in Texas alone, there are 313,000 human trafficking victims. As awareness campaigns increase, such as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in January, Baylor University professors are studying ways to educate and empower youth to address human trafficking in their communities.

In research published in the Journal of Human Trafficking, Lakia M. Scott, Ph.D., assistant professor of curriculum and instruction in Baylor’s School of Education, and Christina Crenshaw, Ph.D., lecturer in the department of English in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, found that in-the-classroom curriculum can help ninth and 10th-grade students identify human trafficking risks to themselves and others while empowering them to advocate against trafficking.

The study authors recruited three high school social studies teachers at a Central Texas school to integrate a five-session curriculum that explores the history and development of human trafficking, challenges common perceptions of modern slavery and shows students how they can be modern abolitionists. The “Bodies are not Commodities” lessons — developed by A21, a nonprofit organization — includes videos, survivor stories, court-case studies, writing exercises, vocabulary meanings and discussions.

Scott and Crenshaw collected data through surveys and assessments of knowledge, both before and after the lessons, to determine student learning and understanding. They also conducted a focus group of students afterward to gauge student attitudes and possible interest in advocacy about human trafficking.

“It would be great if we could get A21’s curriculum, or any some type of human trafficking curriculum, implemented in the schools,” Scott said. “I hope people read the journal article and come away with an informed and engaged perspective about how pervasive human trafficking has become and continues to be, especially within the Central Texas region. If nothing else, that people read and understand there is a curriculum out there for classroom use.”

After completing the sessions, high school students showed a considerable increase of knowledge about definitions and concepts of human trafficking, such as involuntary domestic servitude, peonage (debt servitude) and reintegration. The focus group interview revealed that students felt the curriculum specifically aided their understanding of human trafficking as a global problem and broadened their assumptions that human trafficking was limited to sex trafficking.

Prior to the study, students reported little familiarity with human trafficking and no realization about the pervasiveness of trafficking or that it affects their communities, how lucrative a business it is or that it encompasses many types of forced labor. Not all students chose to participate in the study, but the ninth and 10th-graders who chose to participate gained an invaluable education, Scott said.

In addition to addressing a tough topic, the study connected students with representatives from UnBound, an organization working with local communities to advocate against human trafficking, and from The Heart of Texas Human Trafficking Coalition, a local group that increases community awareness of trafficking, fights for increased law enforcement investigation and provides services to trafficking victims.

“It was, of course, a research study, but there were things that we needed to put in place in order to make sure we didn’t just expose students to this topic without making sure they had centralized and local resources available in the event they needed some counseling or any other kind of resource,” Scott said.

Crenshaw, a graduate of Baylor’s School of Education, initiated the research study. She helped A21 create “Bodies are not Commodities” and adjusted the curriculum to comply with TEKS (Texas curricular requirements) for English, social studies and health classes. Crenshaw proposed the research study to multiple faculty members across Baylor, and Scott agreed to join as a methodologist, determining the best methods for measuring the success of the curriculum and analyzing data.

“Dr. Scott felt like it most aligned with her research agenda, which is urban education,” Crenshaw said. “There’s a lot of correlation between students who become trafficked and students who fall into lower socioeconomic groups and the urban education groups.” Human trafficking does not discriminate against age, gender or socioeconomic status, but students in lower socioeconomic brackets tend to be at higher risks, Crenshaw said.

Once data was gathered, Scott and Baylor graduate Elena Venegas, Ph.D., conducted the analysis to ensure minimal research bias, since Crenshaw had been involved in creating the curriculum. Scott, Crenshaw and Venegas hope the journal will encourage human trafficking curriculum in schools.

“I appreciated the collaboration and the opportunity to work with Dr. Crenshaw on this particular research,” Scott said. “I’ve learned so much through this study. We want to think of ignorance is bliss — to not know much about something means that we do not have to deal with it. But human trafficking can happen to anyone and it impacts everyone.”

by Molly Meeker, Baylor School of Education student newswriter


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.


Founded in 1919, Baylor School of Education ranks among the nation’s top 20 education schools located at private universities. The School’s research portfolio complements its long-standing commitment to excellence in teaching and student mentoring. Baylor’s undergraduate program in teacher education has earned national distinction for innovative partnerships with local schools that provide future teachers deep clinical preparation, while graduate programs culminating in both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. prepare outstanding leaders, teachers and clinicians through an intentional blend of theory and practice.