Randy Yohe Published

Cyber SWAT Program Training Coming To W.Va. Students

A person's hands are seen typing on a laptop computer.
The program will teach students the legal and personal consequences of sharing sexually suggestive or explicit material.
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A bill signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice this week creates enhanced cyber safety training for West Virginia students.

The educational program will soon be available to third through twelfth graders statewide. Senate Bill 466 is known as the Cyber SWAT program. That’s short for Safety While Accessing Technology. 

The lessons focus on using social media and chat rooms safely and the risks of sharing personal sexual material.  

Will Thompson, the U.S. attorney for West Virginia’s Southern District, said children in the state are becoming human trafficking, sextortion or financial crime victims on almost a daily basis.

“With some of them, you’re upset because somebody’s lost a couple hundred dollars,” Thompson said. “Add on even being more upset, because someone’s gotten sex trafficked or something of that nature.” 

Thompson said Cyber SWAT lessons include the same things he shares with his own children, especially his 13-year-old. He said cyber safety tips will create simple awareness.  

“You don’t chat with anyone that you don’t know in real life,” Thompson said. “If someone tries to friend you on a social media site that you don’t know, stay away.”

Thompson said he sees a lot of children who will be asked either by other children or by bad actors to share compromising photos of themselves. He said the wrong-doing for teens is not always obvious. 

“There’s a way of trying to teach that even though it’s a 17-year-old asking for a picture of a 15-year-old, that’s a federal crime, we can’t be doing that,” Thompson said. 

The program will teach students the legal and personal consequences of sharing sexually suggestive or explicit material. It also sets up potential collaborations between school districts, law enforcement and other entities.

The program provides student resources with contact information if encountering suspicious or dangerous activity.  

Thompson said the cyber safety program, with all of its facets, has lofty, yet reachable goals. 

“We might be able to stop somebody from being human traffic,” Thompson said. “We might be able to stop somebody from sending compromising photos, stop somebody from becoming a victim of the sextortion scam.”

The law requires school districts to implement the program for the 2025-2026 school year.