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2020 Michigan High School Ethics Bowl Practice Case Studies

The 2020 Michigan Bowl community case writers created more real world scenarios and cases than teams have time to present and analyze on the actual Bowl Days. We are absolutely delighted all of the case writers shared their expertise and cared enough to take the time to offer their cases for the 7th Michigan Bowl! The Bowl coaches are using all of these cases in their teaching and practice sessions with student teams in this year's Bowl. This year's practice case discusses human trafficking. 

Practice Case 1:

Human trafficking is prevalent in many countries in the world. Countries with high levels of poverty, corrupt governments, and strict censorship are especially susceptible to labor trafficking.

Here is one case of human trafficking. Several years ago, a family entered the US from Nicaragua. The father had played minor league baseball in the US at some point, but returned to Nicaragua where he got involved in government protests. To avoid political persecution, he escaped to Costa Rica and ultimately was able to acquire four visas for legal entry into the US. A church in Kalamazoo sponsored them and they settled there in a house furnished by church members. The father procured a decent job, the mother stayed home full time, and their two sons began attending school.

During her first year in the US, the mother becomes isolated. She doesn’t meet anyone outside of church. The older boy finds it hard to make friends and wants to return to Nicaragua; the younger boy is full of energy and has trouble focusing in school. Over the next months, the father becomes increasingly angry. He makes the family work day and night to clean the house and serve his needs, and he isolates them even more. School officials visit the home, but everything seems okay when they visit. It’s hard for these visitors to converse with the family due to the language barriers. Finally, a school counselor connects with the older boy and comes to learn that this group is not an actual family.

The truth is that several years prior, the “father” was able to obtain four visas. He returned to his village in Nicaragua, where he knew of a widow with a young boy and a friend’s son who he could make his “family.” He told these individuals that he could help them get out of Nicaragua and move them to the US where the boys could be educated and all would be safe. But over time, he enslaved them for his own gain. The woman had to cook, clean, and had no friends, and the boys did hard lawn labor and were made to stay up 15-20 hours a day.

Upon discovery of the truth, one boy was allowed to return home, the man was tried and deported, and the woman and her 9-year-old son were resettled in the US.

Study Questions:

  1. Do extremely bad economic and political circumstances ever make human trafficking justifiable?
  2. Was the outcome of this case a good one?
  3. What institutions were involved in this case? In what way and to what extent did they fail the victims of human trafficking?

Author Bio: Peg Talburtt recently retired as Executive Director of the Lovelight Foundation, a private women’s foundation that has funded a number of projects in the field of human trafficking, particularly those having to do with child sex trafficking in the United States. This is an issue she has followed for decades since she worked with a group of teen girl grantmakers who believed trafficked teens were a REAL issue. Through her work in several foundations over the last twenty-five years, Peg has been able to watch the development of comprehensive trafficking programs in Atlanta, Minnesota, New York, and Florida, among other places. Her doctorate is from the University of Michigan. She is a current member of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force and is a community leader with a Washtenaw County Anti-Trafficking Alliance.