Courtesy Photo, Kent School District

Courtesy Photo, Kent School District

Kent joins Seattle schools in suit against social media companies

Seeks to hold them accountable for their role in youth mental health crisis

Similar to Seattle Public Schools, the Kent School District has filed a public nuisance suit against the large social media companies in an attempt to hold them accountable for their role in youth mental health problems.

“Yes, Kent School District has also filed suit against social media companies to change how these social media companies behave regarding youth consumers and take responsibility for the harm they are causing students and the impact of their actions on the ability of schools to educate their students,” said Felicia Craick, an attorney with Seattle-based Keller Rohrback, in a Jan. 12 email.

“As described in the complaint, the algorithms used by the social media companies push harmful content to children, and are designed to hook kids and keep them on the platforms,” Craick said.

Seattle Public School filed its suit Jan. 6 in U.S. District Court in Seattle. Kent filed suit Jan. 9. Keller Rohrback is representing both districts on a contingency basis, which means the law firm will only receive legal fees if it wins the case or settles the matter out of court. The firm will not receive payment from the districts.

“(That) is common in this type of litigation,” Craick said. “The next step is for litigation to progress in the court with motions and discovery.”

The suit seeks monetary damages to be determined by a jury.

The complaints are against the companies operating TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat and YouTube. Each school district complaint is 92 pages.

As of Thursday afternoon Jan. 12, the Kent School District had not issued any public statement about the suit. The district has not responded to a Kent Reporter email for comment.

Seattle Public Schools posted an article on its website about the suit, including the following statement:

“The goal is not to eliminate social media, but to change how these companies operate and force them to take responsibility,” according to the statement. “We are asking these popular companies to maximize their efforts to safeguard students, who are their most vulnerable consumers.

“Young people across the nation are struggling with anxiety, depression, thoughts of self-harm, and suicidal ideation. This mental health crisis impacts the SPS mission to educate students by draining resources from schools.

“For many of our schools, SPS and school-based clinics are a primary provider of student health services. We cannot ignore the mental health needs of our students.”

Keller Rohrback described the case on its website.

“Defendants have made choices to target youth, to maximize the time youth spend on defendants’ social media platforms, and then designed their algorithms to feed children harmful content, like videos promoting eating disorders, violence, self-harm and suicide,” according to the law firm. “Plaintiff alleges that defendants choose to put profits over the mental health of children and that defendants’ current business models for their social media platforms are deeply flawed and are causing real harm.”

Antigone Davis, Meta’s global head of safety, said it continues to pour resources into ensuring its young users are safe online, according to a statement posted on cnn.com.

Davis said the platforms have more than 30 tools to support teens and families, including supervision tools that let parents limit the amount of time their teens spend on Instagram, and age verification technology that helps teens have age-appropriate experiences, according to cnn.com.

“We’ll continue to work closely with experts, policymakers and parents on these important issues,” she said to CNN.

In the Kent complaint, attorneys said the Kent School District has been directly impacted by the mental health crisis among youth in its community.

“There has been a surge in the proportion of youth in plaintiff’s community who say they cannot stop or control their anxiety, who feel so sad and hopeless that they stop doing the activities that they used to love, who are considering suicide, who made plans to commit suicide, and who have attempted to commit suicide,” according to the complaint.

“From 2010 to 2018, more youth became depressed, more youth reported considering suicide, making plans to commit suicide and attempting suicide.”

The complaint then outlines the impact on district resources, including:

“In an attempt to address the decline in students’ mental, emotional, and social health, plaintiff has been forced to divert resources and expend additional resources to:

• Hire additional personnel, including counselors and medical professionals to address mental, emotional and social health issues.

• Develop additional resources to address mental, emotional and social health issues.

• Increase training for teachers and staff to identify students exhibiting symptoms affecting their mental, emotional and social health.

• Train teachers, staff, and members of the community about the harms caused by defendants’ wrongful conduct.

• Develop lesson plans to teach students about the dangers of using defendants’ platforms.”


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

Courtesy Photo, Sound Transit
Sound Transit postpones Kent Sounder parking garage opening to 2027

Fourth delay since agency in 2017 announced 2023 opening; voters approved funding in 2008

t
Kent receives $2M King County grant to buy land by Clark Lake Park | Photos

City will own all the property around the lake and keep property from development

t
Kent judge releases man from jail in Meridian school incident

Judge says ‘I have no other options remaining;’ family to take man to Eastern Washington

Newly sworn-in King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion. (File Photo)
King County’s new prosecuting attorney announces task force units

Leesa Manion said the units are focused on public safety and “King County’s greatest areas of concern”

t
18 pedestrians in Kent killed by trains from 2019 to 2022

Many safety improvements ahead at track crossings as city leaders seek quiet zone designation

t
Kent City Council approves surplus of wetlands near Bridges neighborhood

Land cannot be developed, but a new owner must maintain the property

t
Kent pedestrian, 70, dies after collision with vehicle on East Hill

Man was crossing SE Kent-Kangley Road Saturday evening, Jan. 21

t
Auburn man, 18, dies in four-vehicle crash Saturday in Kent

Teen was driver of one of the vehicles along Central Avenue South

t
Kent Mayor Ralph to deliver State of the City address March 14

Open to the public at Kent-Meridian High School

Most Read