Proviso Township High School District 209 has joined schools across the country in a federal class action lawsuit a California law firm has filed against major social media companies.
During the Board of Education meeting on Oct. 24, all board members present approved the action item to join the class action lawsuit filed by the Frantz Law Group.
Board members Rodney Alexander and Arbdella Patterson were not present. According to board president Amanda Grant, the discussion of the item was held during a closed session.
Supt. Bessie Karvelas will not be commenting at this time, said Kristi Vandenbroek, director of public and community relations.
The lawsuit claims social media companies have behaved in a way that has caused harm to students and that school districts have incurred costs to treat those harms.
“We allege that Meta, TikTok, Snap, YouTube, and other social media companies have engaged in reckless and negligent misconduct that has caused a mental health crisis among our youth,” said James P. Frantz, on behalf of the plaintiff school district in a news release. “Social media companies are and have been well aware of the harm they cause. It must stop, and we will fight to hold these social media companies accountable for choosing profit over the mental health and safety of children and their families.”
District 209 joins other schools in the area, including Oak Park and River Forest High School who announced their participation in the lawsuit in early September. Riverside Brookfield High School District 208 and Riverside Elementary School District 96 also joined the over 650 school districts across the country who are participating in the lawsuit.
According to PR Newswire, the lawsuit was filed on April 13, 2023, in Federal District Court in San Francisco County, CA on behalf of sixteen school districts across the country.
In the lawsuit, Frantz Law Group raises the claims that the named social media companies have caused a crisis amongst children and teenagers marked with higher proportions of anxiety, depression, and thoughts of self-harm, which affect their daily lives and their success in schools. They also claim that students are “subjected to often harmful and exploitative content that encourages disorderly behavior, unhealthy social comparison, and cyberbullying.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of adolescents who are reporting poor mental health is increasing. In data presented in their “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Data Summary and Trends Report: 2011-2021,” in 2021, more than one in five, 22%, students seriously considered suicide and one in 10 attempted suicide. Additionally, mental health issues often are associated with other health and behavioral risks including drug use, violence, and higher risk sexual behaviors, often carrying into adulthood.
The CDC lists proactive steps school districts can take to aid students including helping students cope with emergencies, providing safe and supportive environments, providing mental health services, training staff, combining social emotional learning, and reviewing policies to ensure equity amongst others.
This is not the first major class action lawsuit taken by Frantz Law Group. They represented more than 42 school districts across the country who were using Juul Labs.