Mandatory internet safety education bill goes to Virginia Governor’s desk for signature

A bill that could make safe internet education mandatory in Virginia public schools is now headed to Governor Youngkin’s desk to sign

ROANOKE, Va.Update:

A bill that could make safe internet education mandatory in Virginia public schools is now headed to Governor Youngkin’s desk to sign.

HB1575 was brought forward by Lynchburg Delegate Wendell Walker and it was amended in a house subcommittee before being approved by the house and senate.

This would establish an Internet Safety Advisory Council that would develop the practices and model policy for safe use of media and technology for students and teachers.

“The substitute for HB1575 would incorporate much of the initial bill into the existing Internet Safety Advisory Council legislation that was passed last year. This bill would strengthen the internet safety legislation passed last year and will still require that the Board of Education create a program to address the areas of concern discussed in the initial bill,” said Jack Collins, who works in the office of Del. Walker.

The areas of concern include teaching:

  • safe and responsible use of social media, including chat rooms, email and instant messaging.
  • the risks of sending personal information
  • copyright laws on photos, music, and videos
  • the importance of open communication with adults about online activities
  • how to recognize and report suspicious or illegal communications including potential solicitation by sexual predators, harassment and cyberbullying.

The council will also design and post on the Department’s website a page with links to successful instructional practices, curricula, and other teacher resources used in school divisions within and outside of the Commonwealth for the safe use of media and technology by students and teachers.


Original story from January 23:

There’s a bill that would make internet safety education mandatory in Virginia public schools.

HB1575 is being talked about right now by lawmakers in Richmond.

The Safety While Accessing Technology (SWAT) education program would include:

  • Instruction on safe use of social networking websites and communication
  • The risks of sending personal information on the Internet
  • Copyright laws on things like photo, music, and videos
  • The importance of open communication with adults about any online communication
  • Recognizing, avoiding, and reporting suspicious, potentially dangerous, or illegal online communications, including solicitation by sexual predators, harassment, and cyberbullying
  • Resources for families who may have encountered online solicitation by sexual predators or other illegal online activities

The Safe Surfin’ Foundation has been working to put this bill together with Lynchburg Delegate Wendell Walker.

“That’s what we’re trying to do is prevent our young children from getting caught up in something they may think is totally innocent and before they realize it, then you’ve got predators just zooming in,” said Walker, who added there is a lot of support from law enforcement who have been dealing with internet crimes for years.

The Delegate says it would be up to each school system on how and when to implement it. It could be a health class, after school program or something else.

Amanda Staubs was taken by a predator she talked to online and knows what can happen.

“It would mean a line of defense against cyber predators. It would mean that education is there, no matter what your walk of life is, no matter what your home life is. There’s that difference because unfortunately, there is never a way to stop the cyber predators. They are always a step or two ahead of any type of police enforcement or education that we can give,” said Staubs, a National Spokesperson for Safe Surfin’ Foundation.

“We can’t get to enough people fast enough and that’s our one desire. We want people to take it serious. We want them to know that predators are out there. They are looking for these kids,” said Vicki Johnson, Staubs’ mother who is also a National Spokesman for Safe Surfin’ Foundation.

The bill also requires each local school board to adopt policies requiring all elementary and secondary schools to provide the SWAT education program at least once each school year to students in grades three through 12. Parents could opt their kids out.

Right now, the bill is in a sub-committee. To read the proposed bill, you can visit this link.

About the Author:

You can see Jenna weekday mornings at the anchor desk on WSLS 10 Today from 5-7 a.m. She also leads our monthly Solutionaries Series, where we highlight the creative thinkers and doers working to make the world a better place.