Lake Fenton schools warn of growing human trafficking threat online
(2/13/2020) - Like many school districts, Lake Fenton Community Schools has spent millions of dollars building physical barriers to protect students from outside threats.
But Superintendent Julie Williams said the threats students face online can be far greater -- namely human traffickers targeting teens on social media.
Lake Fenton school officials have been working with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office on an investigation into the threat over the past few weeks.
They found "an alarming number of students" with social media connections to much older people with no connection to the community of Lake Fenton schools, Williams said. Investigators alerted several families to the situation.
"Unfortunately, we live in an age where predators can easily connect with our children through a variety of social media outlets," Williams said. "I cannot stress to you enough the importance of knowing who your children are connected with on social media."
She understands that teens want and need some privacy, but "when it comes to their safety, some things are just not negotiable."
Williams asked parents to talk with their children about the dangers of online chat rooms, gaming and social media sites. She said schools teach children not to give out personal information, but the recent investigation shows they do so anyway.
Lake Fenton schools are hosting a community event at 6:30 p.m. March 5 about human trafficking and grooming behaviors to watch for. The event in the high school auditorium will include a member of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force.
All parents are encouraged to attend and high school students also are invited to tag along.