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Wake County Schools Considering Suing Social Media Companies Over Student Mental Health

Source: WRAL

The Wake County school board is contemplating the possibility of taking legal action against social media companies, contending that the psychological damage caused by their apps necessitates school intervention, according to WRAL. This would align Wake County with numerous other school boards that have already initiated lawsuits against companies such as Meta, Google, ByteDance, and Snap. 

Eleven other North Carolina school systems, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Clinton City, Cumberland, Johnston, Wilson, Union, Robeson, Moore, Wayne, Pitt, and Rockingham counties, are already involved in similar legal actions. As of December, at least 42 state attorneys general, including North Carolina’s Josh Stein, have also filed lawsuits.

The legal complaints against social media companies assert their failure to adequately warn teenage users of potential harm, attributing increased rates of eating disorders, depression, and anxiety to their platforms. School boards argue that educational funds have been redirected to address children’s mental health issues resulting from the impact of these apps. The existing lawsuits have been consolidated into a national case before a federal court in Northern California, and the Wake County school board is poised to join these consolidated proceedings.

The social media companies in question have not immediately responded to requests for comment. In previous statements to the media, these companies have asserted efforts to enhance safety for teenagers. Wake County’s approach in this social media case mirrors its strategy when suing JUUL Labs and other e-cigarette companies for allegedly targeting teenagers. Those lawsuits were amalgamated with similar national cases and subsequently settled, with Wake schools receiving substantial funds to combat teen vaping.

On Tuesday, the school board will hear from legal representatives Janet Ward Black of Ward Black Law and Matthew Legg of Baird Mandalas Brockstedt and Federico. These law firms are representing other school districts in North Carolina and beyond. In their scheduled presentation, the attorneys argue that social media companies intentionally design addictive products, causing distress among users that manifests in schools, where students struggle and educators require additional resources to address these issues.

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