Parents Upset District Didn't Inform Them of Teacher Involved In Trafficking Case
ABILENE, TX – Parents with children at Mann Middle School are upset that the Abilene ISD did not notify them of the suspension of Jim Counts. Counts, who is an 8th grade math teacher, was put on administrative leave after being identified as a suspect in a cyber crimes investigation.
According to KTXS, police believe Counts was one of the 20 men who allegedly paid to have sex with a Asian woman in her 30’s at an Abilene hotel. The victim told authorities she had been flown to Texas by her “controllers” and was trafficked at least 20 times over a course of six days. Authorities learned about the victim after they found information that claimed an Asian woman was “available in our city.”
Abilene ISD claimed that since the issue was very public already, they didn’t need to provide “additional information” to parents.
Parents of the students told KTXS they were not okay with the district’s decision.
"I would ask him [the superintendent] what he would want if his kid was in this school," said a parent.
"It's wrong. They should notify parents about things like this," said another mom.
"I had no idea this happened at the school," said another dad.
Abilene PD released pictures of the alleged offenders and asked the public’s help with identifying them. As of Wednesday, they had identified 11 of the 15 suspects. The pictures that were released are selfies the suspects were required to send to the "controllers" to "acquire the services of the woman."
All 20 suspects could be charged with Class B prostitution which carries a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.
Human trafficking is a major issue in the United States and in Texas. According to the Big Country Human Trafficking Coalition, there are 313,000 victims in Texas, making it second in the nation.
Any citizen can help identify cases of human trafficking by paying attention to certain red flags.
“If you see a bunch of traffic to a single house or hotel room, call the police. In this case, 20 men visited a single hotel room for over six days. If you see something, say something," said Bryn Stonehouse of Big Country Human Trafficking Coalition.
Shared Hope International has published the following list of warning signs to look out for when identifying possible cases of human trafficking:
- Physical abuse such as burn marks, bruises or cuts
- Unexplained absences from class
- Sexualized behavior
- Overly tired in class
- Withdrawn, depressed, distracted or checked out
- Brags about making or having lots of money
- Less appropriately dressed than before or new expensive clothes, accessories or shoes
- New tattoo (tattoos are often used by pimps as a way to brand victims. Tattoos of a name, symbol of money or barcode could indicate trafficking)
- Older boyfriend or new friends with a different lifestyle
- Talks about wild parties or invites other students to attend parties
- Shows signs of gang affiliation (color colors, notebook doodles of gang symbols, etc.)
To report a tip you can contact the following agencies:
- National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888) | humantraffickinghotline.org
- National Runaway Switchboard (1-800-RUNAWAY) | 1800RUNAWAY.org
- National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (1-800-843-5678) | MissingKids.com
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