The Port Townsend School District could soon join a lawsuit against Big Tech, but the odds of winning seem slim.
The Seattle Public Schools on Friday, January 6 decided to sue the tech giants behind TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat, alleging the social media companies are contributing significantly to the mental health crisis among America’s youth by They targeted young people and developed algorithms to maximize children’s use of the apps, stake profits on children’s mental health and much more.
The Kent School District and other counties across the United States have followed suit.
The Port Townsend School District board of directors met on February 2 to discuss whether or not to join the lawsuit.
“This mental health crisis is directly impacting our educational communities and there is research showing that the actions of social media companies related to social media platforms are contributing to the mental health crisis and the excessive and problematic Social media use harms children’s mental health. Behavioral and emotional health,” Superintendent Linda Rosenbury said during the meeting.
The lawsuit is being conducted by Franz Law Group, a law firm with which the school district is familiar.
“[It’s] the same group that led the lawsuit against Juul and Altria and there is a settlement that we should get every day for a dollar amount that goes to the school to help us respond to the vaping problem.” said Rosenbury.
The Port Townsend School District joined a lawsuit led by Franz Law Group against Juul and Altria in 2022, with the vape company agreeing to settle thousands of lawsuits allegedly worth $1.2 billion.
This time, the district isn’t convinced to join the social media suit.
“What I’ve heard from my colleagues in other districts is that while this lawsuit is similar to and has merit in the Juul lawsuit, yes, we all agree that social media companies have developed their tools to address division.” and encourage obsessive use. I don’t think we’re arguing [but] we’re not sure there’s a precedent to be won,” Rosenbury said.
“What some legal analysts have said is that’s a long way to go to win,” she added.
On the plus side, Rosenbury says there is no risk for the school district to join the lawsuit.
“There is no financial risk to the district, but approximately 25 hours of staff time will be required,” Rosenbury said.
While the point was moot, Rosenbury offered the board her recommendation not to join due to limited staffing for data collection as well as the likelihood of actually winning the case.
“People tend to be ‘no’ because of the legal analysis,” she said. “Small districts are not designed to join such lawsuits, it seems. But large districts can invest resources and they have the staff to do so.”
The district board will vote on whether or not to join the lawsuit at one of its next meetings, held on the first and third Thursday of each month.