PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Ria Bahadur, a senior at Eastside Preparatory School in Kirkland, Wash., has written a bill that would add education on sex trafficking to the K-12 curriculum.
Senate Bill 5355, sponsored by Washington Sen. Claire Wilson, was first read to the Washington senate on Friday, Jan. 13. If the bill were to be enacted, students from the seventh grade to the 12th grade would learn about sex trafficking prevention and identification.
January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Washington, like other U.S. states, has dealt with many cases of human trafficking — which includes sex trafficking. The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported 202 cases of sex, or sex and labor, trafficking in Washington in 2021.
Bahadur has worked for years to write, draft and negotiate the bill that could educate students on this issue.
“[The youth] are experiencing society and we are not isolated from these issues,” Bahadur said in the release. “Adults assume that we young people haven’t experienced some of these tricky or difficult subjects, but we have and we are. Education on these topics is so critical and especially education designed by youth, because the current system reinforces societal apathy based on social and cultural lack of understanding around these insidious and rampant crimes.”
SB 5355 will be heard by the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education committee on Thursday, Jan. 26.
Simultaneously, Bahadur is working alongside the Legislative Youth Advisory Council to draft an additional bill. LYAC is made up of more than 20 young Washington scholars, and according to Washington senate democrats, the council is the only non-partisan, youth-led committee that acts as the official voice of Washington youth to the legislature.
The additional bill, SB 5441, sets out to promote more diverse, equitable and inclusive curricula within K-12 schools. The bill is scheduled for a public hearing on Monday, Jan. 30.
“Our students are our future,” Washington Sen. Claire Wilson said. “They are engaged and they offer a perspective that we adults do not have. These students offered crucial insights into the needs of their classmates and I am proud to have worked with them to bring these bills to the Senate.”