CSEC is both a general and special education issue. First, research has established a
growing link between unmet special education needs104 and school truancy and failure, both of
which are risk factors and signs that a child is being commercially sexually exploited.105 Schools
are best positioned to track truancy, and have a federal mandate under the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”)106 to track students who struggle in their school settings.107
Recently, schools have even been given guidance on screening for CSEC from the Department of
Education.108 Schools therefore have a critical role in identifying children who are being
commercially sexually exploited.
Second, schools have a federal obligation to provide appropriate special education and
related services to meet the unique needs of disabled children.109 The impact of commercial
sexual exploitation, as will be discussed at length below, can exacerbate the impact of a child’s
existing disabilities, or result in a child developing disabilities.110 Special education attorneys
play a critical role in advocating for the school system to meet the unique needs of a
commercially sexually exploited child, especially where service planning may be necessary to
ensure a child’s needs are met.
The next section begins with a discussion of why CSEC is an educational issue, focusing
on the Department of Education’s guidance on CSEC issued to schools, and the role of truancy
and school attendance as precursors for disability and commercial sexual exploitation. This
Article will then move on to discuss the special education elements of CSEC in the legal context,
including the school’s obligations to identify a commercially sexually exploited child under Child
Find,111 and when a commercially sexually exploited child may be entitled to specialized school-based services.112
A. Why is CSEC an Educational Issue?
Schools are integral to CSEC prevention and in addressing the needs of commercially
sexually exploited children when they return to their communities. All children, especially young
104 Some research suggests that students with disabilities are independently at an increased risk of being commercially sexually
exploited. Topics of Special Interest, U.S. DEP’T STATE, http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2012/192359.htm (last visited Mar. 25,
105 “Children with school-related problems, such as truancy and learning disabilities, may also be vulnerable to recruitment.” WALKER,
supra note 26, at 18.
106 20 U.S.C.A. § 1400 (West 2014). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was reauthorized and amended in 2004 with the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, Pub. L. No. 108-446, 118 Stat 2647 (codified as amended in 20
U.S.C.A. ch. 33). Although the IDEA was renamed as the “IDEA, 2004,” the acronym, IDEA is still commonly used when discussing
the statute. In this Article, reference to the IDEA includes the relevant sections of 20 U.S.C.A. as amended by the Improvement Act.
107 A parent of a child, or a State or local educational agency “may initiate a request for an initial evaluation to determine if the child is
a child with a disability.” Id. § 1414 (a)(1)(B). A reevaluation of each child with a disability shall occur at least once every three years,
unless otherwise necessary. Id. § 1414 (a)(2)(A)-(B).
108 See HUMAN TRAFFICKING, supra note 23 (listing “[ i]ndicators that school staff and administrators should be aware of concerning a
109 See infra Part III (B); Bd. of Educ. of Hendrick Hudson Cent. Sch. Dist. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 182 (1982). “The State must
have in effect policies and procedures to ensure that – [a]ll children with disabilities residing in the State, . . . who are in need of
special education and related services are identified, located, and evaluated[.]” 34 C.F.R. § 300.111 (a)(1)( i) (2014).
110 See infra Part III (B)(1)( i); see also U. S. DEP’T OF HEAL TH & HUMAN SERVS., HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN TO AND WI THIN THE
UNI TED STATES: A REVIE W OF THE LI TERATURE 9 (2009), available at
http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/07/Human Trafficking/LitRev/index.pdf [hereinafter A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE] (explaining the
“correlation between school-related problems, most notably learning disabilities, and sexual exploitation”).
111 34 C.F.R. § 300.111.
112 While there is an absence of case law specific to the issue of the special education needs of commercially sexually exploited
children, where helpful, the authors have provided citations to parallel case law that can assist special education attorneys advocating
to ensure vulnerable students receive the services they need.