The Kent School District in Washington state has joined Seattle Public Schools in filing suit against TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and their parent companies, seeking compensation to address the youth mental health crisis that both districts allege has been caused by the social media companies.
Kent, a 25,000-student district located south of Seattle, filed its own complaint Monday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, nearly identical to the one filed Friday by Seattle Public Schools, working with the same law firm, Keller Rohrback.
The districts allege that the companies have violated the state’s public nuisance laws with algorithms that prey on young minds using psychological techniques that create addiction to the apps, to boost engagement and profits.
They’re seeking financial damages to compensate for mental health programs and counselors in schools, and also asking the court to enjoin the companies from engaging in activities impacting mental health among kids.
Without addressing the specifics of the lawsuits, some of the social media companies have issued statements in response to the suits outlining their efforts to ensure the mental well-being of their users, including teenagers.
Seattle Public Schools notified parents and others about the suits in an email today.
“The goal is not to eliminate social media, but to change how these companies operate and force them to take responsibility,” wrote Beverly Redmond, SPS assistant superintendent of public affairs, in the message. “We are asking these popular companies to maximize their efforts to safeguard students, who are their most vulnerable consumers.”
Keller Rohrback “will be paid attorneys’ fees only if there is a settlement in our favor,” Redmond added. “No funds are being spent out of the district’s budget.”
Listen to GeekWire’s Todd Bishop discuss the Seattle Public Schools suit on KUOW Public Radio’s Soundside and The Brian Lehrer Show from WNYC Public Radio.