EL PASO, Texas – Officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Ysleta Independent School District have known about a prostitution ring involving middle and high school girls in the district for more than a year, but are only now informing the public.
“Due to student confidentiality laws, the Ysleta Independent School District is prohibited from disclosing specific details of the alleged underage prostitution ring currently under investigation by the FBI,” district officials said in a statement cited by the El Paso Times.
“However, officials at Ysleta High School were notified in December 2012 that an investigation into underage prostitution was under way at local middle and high schools.”
Recent court documents allege a 16-year-old female student at the high school was prostituted through the website Backpage.com for sexual services to a school district volunteer, the news site reports.
According to the district’s cryptic press statement, “the FBI requested that Ysleta High School officials not discuss the matter with anyone, including district administration.
“After the meeting with the FBI, Ysleta High School officials were approached by the student for assistance with issues outside of the investigation that cannot be disclosed. No other details are available at this time, YISD will continue to cooperate fully with local law enforcement agencies in their investigation.”
The statement obviously implies that local police are also keen to the alleged prostitution, but El Paso police deferred the Times’ questions to the FBI, which confirmed their investigation but declined additional comment.
“During a press conference on Monday to announce the arrest of two suspected sex traffickers, FBI officials declined to comment on the case involving the 16-year-old Ysleta student,” according to the Times.
Officials at nearby El Paso, Clint and Canutillo school districts said they have not been in contact with the FBI.
Ysleta school administrators and board members ignored the news site’s calls for comment.
John Martin, executive director for the Paso del Norte Center of Hope – which works to fight child sex trafficking – said local schools can and should do more to combat what’s become a very serious issue.
“The schools desperately need to get involved from the prevention standpoint, they do so much in a similar nature for other issues but they don’t really talk about trafficking,” Martin told the Times.
“It is very important that we target the students in elementary, middle and high school and educate them on the dangers of sex trafficking and create preventative programs,” Martin said. “By definition, the most vulnerable to being trafficked are the poor, young and the immigrant. And in many cases these students fell into all three categories. So it is vital we reach out and educate our young children.”