Evanston/Skokie District 65 will consider joining a nationwide lawsuit against Facebook, TikTok, and other social media companies.
The proposal is on a school board committee agenda for Wednesday afternoon.
Language in the resolution states that the widespread use of social media “among public school students has expanded dramatically, leading to significant risks of anxiety, depression, thoughts of self-harm and suicidal ideation among students.”
The document says that more than 335 school districts across 11 states are already on board with the suit, against Meta Platforms, Facebook Holdings, Snap Inc., TikTok, Alphabet, and “other parties responsible” for the design, marketing, and proliferation of social media.
Allegations include widespread student usage of social media adding to the District’s costs “in the form of staff time, disciplinary proceedings, social and emotional counseling, medical services” and other expenses, which will only increase “unless and until student use of social media is reduced or the social media platforms reform their practices in attracting students.”
To join the suit, District 65 would have to sign on with a California law firm that is pursuing the case. There is mention of an “Attorney Client Fee Contract,” which is supposed to be attached to the resolution, but which has not been included as of now.
The suit would seek unspecified “monetary and non-monetary damages.”
Lawsuits such as this are often at minimal or no cost to the plaintiffs, with the law firm getting a percentage of the court judgment or out of court settlement, should that happen. However, without seeing the contract D65 will consider with the resolution, it’s impossible to say for certain.
An article in “Education Week” says, “While legal experts are skeptical that these lawsuits will succeed in the court of law, in the court of public opinion, they may have more success.”
A similar but unrelated suit was filed by the state of Arkansas against some social media firms.
In response to that lawsuit, a spokesperson for Meta (Facebook’s parent company) told the Associated Press that Meta has taken a number of steps to protect teenagers, including age verification technology and filters which remove certain types of content.
“These are complex issues,” the spokesperson told AP, “but we will continue working with parents, experts, and regulators … to develop new tools, features, and policies that meet the needs of teens and their families.”