The Boone County School Board voted Thursday to join dozens of school districts across the country in suing social media companies like TikTok and Instagram over harm caused to children.
“Social media companies have made choices to target youth to maximize the time youth spend on social media platforms and then designed their algorithms to feed children harmful content: videos promoting eating disorders, violence, self-harm or even suicide,” Superintendent Matthew Turner read from the resolution.
Turner said studies show 90% of youth use “potentially addictive” social media and that public school are typically the main providers of mental health services in a community.
“Our school district believes it is entitled to compensation for its efforts and resources expended to address and treat this mental health issues caused by social media,” Turner said.
Board attorney Olivia Amlung told the board it would be joining a “multi-district litigation” lawsuit that 14 other districts in Kentucky have already joined. The Associated Press reported a large number of other districts across the country will be part of the suit as well.
Amlung said the case would go before a judge in San Francisco after all the lawsuits are filed and a test case or small number of test cases would move through the litigation process. She said it is unlikely that Boone County Schools would be chosen as a test case.
The district could join the lawsuit at no cost, Amlung said.
The district is required by state law to take steps to prevent bullying, Amlung said, and this lawsuit could be seen as one of those steps.
Boone County Schools joined a similar lawsuit against Juul, the vape manufacturer. The lawsuit against the social media giants has been compared to the lawsuits against tobacco companies and opioid manufacturers.
In January, the Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases centered around social media and terrorism. Those cases could have an impact on the federal law that generally guards social media companies against liability for posts made by their users. The court could issue decisions in those cases by June.
Boone County Schools board member Karen Byrd said Thursday that TikTok challenges last year created an extensive disruption to the education process.
“I don’t like to be involved in lawsuits,” Byrd said. “It’s not about any potential windfall the district could get as a result of it. It’s about holding people accountable for what they do with their product.”