AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Testifying before a Texas House committee, State Representative Mary Gonzalez’s voice cracked with emotion.
“I bring this bill before you in remembrance of those lives lost and my community that is still wounded from the August 2019 massacre,” she said.READ MORE: Dallas Detectives Searching For Woman Who Robbed Store Employee
It’s been more than a year and a half since the shooting spree at an El Paso Walmart killed 23 people.
“One of the main reasons it happened was that a young person fell down this rabbit hole of hate and misinformation and conspiracy theories,” she said.
The suspect, Patrick Crusius of Allen, was linked to a hate-filled manifesto referencing a “Hispanic invasion of Texas”.
“You understand very quickly that this person was radicalized, was given information about people of color, Latino people specifically… All of that information was found online,” said Gonzalez in an interview with CBS11.
She introduced legislation, House Bill 129, aimed at preventing others from falling prey to the same ideas.
It would require the state’s sixth grade social studies curriculum to include lessons on digital ethics, etiquette, and safety.
It would also cover the importance of freedom of speech, respectful discourse with people of differing opinions, and identification of rhetoric that incited violence.
“At 6th grade we know people are starting to actively use the internet in different ways,” said Gonzalez. “The bill works to help give young people the tools, the techniques to be on the internet in safe and healthy ways.”READ MORE: Dallas Semi Driver Aron Griffin Charged With Human Smuggling After Rig Found With Dozens Of Noncitizens Inside
Dallas ISD is one of many districts already tackling these lessons.
“Believe it or not we start with pre-K,” said Jeffrey Bingamon, a counselor for the district.
Of course, among younger children, the lessons start simply.
“Not giving your name, your password, your school name. Don’t get in any chat rooms without parent permission,” he said.
When the pandemic hit and forced students to move to online, each with their own tablet and e-mail address, that education took on increased importance.
At the hearing this month before the House Public Education Committee, Beaman Floyd, a representative from Texas IMPACT, an interfaith organization, chimed in about the need to better educate children on the online community they regularly take part in.
“It’s the place where the encounter the world. From our perspective, we think that education in that space is absolutely critical,” he said.
The bill passed the House with the support of more than two thirds of members, including Republican Representative Jeff Leach, of Collin County, who signed on as a co-author.MORE NEWS: Smugglers Cross 119 Migrants, Including Unaccompanied Children Amid Storm At Southern Border
Crusius is still awaiting trial in both state and federal court. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.