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

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

“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.”

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