increases a child’s risk of being commercially sexually exploited: “[w]here schools fail to
accommodate students with disabilities, high drop-out rates leave them on the streets and at much
higher risk of being trafficked into forced begging or other criminal activities.”122 In the context
of special education services, children with unidentified disabilities, resulting in truancy, are even
more vulnerable because (1) they are engaging in behavior that is a risk factor for commercial
sexual exploitation, and (2) as disabled children who are experiencing school failure, they
demonstrate other risk factors for commercial sexual exploitation.
Schools should follow the guidance provided by the Department of Education directing
them to identify children that are commercially sexually exploited for all general education
students. Schools can enhance their identification of children who might be commercially
sexually exploited by ensuring an internal response to truancy that is thoughtful, research-based
and therapeutic as needed (as opposed to relying solely on a referral to the juvenile justice system
and notes sent home to the parent). In addition to the preventative measures schools can take
surrounding truancy to address commercial sexual exploitation for all students, schools may have
additional obligations to children with disabilities under IDEA, both in identifying children with
disabilities who are CSEC involved, and ensuring that those students receive appropriate special
B. Why is CSEC a Special Education Issue?
Commercial sexual exploitation is also a critical special education issue because of the
school-based services commercially sexually exploited youth may be entitled to, either because
they were not appropriately identified as needing services prior to being exploited, or because the
child returns to the community with new special education needs. This section will explore
schools’ obligations to identify and serve children with disabilities (and the implications this has
for a school’s obligations to commercially sexually exploited children), and will also discuss the
types of school-based services to which commercially sexually exploited children may be entitled
as a result of the impact of their experiences.
1. A School’s Child Find Obligations and Screening for CSEC.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), states must have
policies and procedures in place to locate, identify, and evaluate a student if the student has, or is
suspected of having, a disability.123 This is frequently referred to as a state or school district’s
“Child Find” obligations.124 Under Child Find, a school district must refer a child for assessment
if the school suspects the child has a disability, independent of whether or not the parent has
requested the child be evaluated for special education and related services.125
A school’s obligations under Child Find dovetail with a school’s obligation to screen for
risk factors and warning signs for commercial sexual exploitation. Several CSEC warning signs
overlap with traditional indicators that a child is suspected of having a disability and is in need of
an evaluation for special education and related services.126 These include school-avoidant
123 See 34 C.F.R. § 300.111 (2014) (emphasis added).
124 What is Child Find?, WRIGHTSLAW, http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/child.find.index.htm (last visited Mar. 8, 2014).
125 Id.; see 20 U.S.C.A. § 1414 (a)(1)(B) (West 2014) (indicating that “either a parent of a child, or a State educational agency, other
State agency, or local educational agency may initiate a request for an initial evaluation to determine if the child is a child with a
126 See Dep’t of Educ., State of Haw. v. Cari Rae S., 158 F. Supp. 2d 1190, 1195 (D. Haw. 2001) (finding that child’s school
attendance issues and behavioral problems should have put school on notice of child’s potential eligibility for special education and
related services); see also Bedford City Sch. Dist., 112 LRP 37604 (OCR 05/18/12) (finding that student’s depression and academic
deterioration should have put school on notice that student needed to be evaluated for special education services).