Escambia County School District Hosts Special Workshop to Explore Social Media Litigation

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Tech companies have unleashed a dragon disguised as social media. It’s destroying the mental health of our youth with addictions and other injuries, and leaving behind a scorched trail of depressed, anxious, and suicidal youth. Children, teens, and young adults are not the only victims. Families also suffer the consequences of social media—as do teachers and schools.

Levin Papantonio Rafferty (LPR) Attorneys Carissa Phelps and Renee Preston presented this topic to the Escambia County School District (ECSD) at a Special Workshop held on April 13, 2023, and explained how social media litigation across the country aims to hold tech companies accountable for the damage they’ve wrought.

Phelps first addressed the reality of addiction.

According to Phelps, research shows that addiction touches a growing number of students. “Some even say they would have difficulty, if not [find it] impossible to stop consuming those apps—TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, and….Facebook,” she said.

Phelps added that LPR’s social media litigation team has been filing cases on behalf of injured victims who allegedly have developed eating disorders, committed acts of self-harm, or in some cases suicide because of these addictive and harmful social media apps.

Allegedly, this is all by design.

Phelps called out one Facebook executive who talked about young people being “like herd animals.”

As a former educator, Phelps took special exception to this mentality.

“That’s not what we do,” she told the ECSD Board. “We don’t try to brainwash individuals and herd them into one belief or thing.

“And what they were herding them for was profit,” Phelps added.

Preston conveyed to the board the ways in which the social media addiction and harm epidemic is affecting school districts, including requiring them to hire additional mental health counselors and train teachers on how to deal with the dangers that their students face and the dangers they might pose to fellow students. She also mentioned schools’ need to increase disciplinary services because social media addictions also bring about behavioral problems.

“There are folks who would say that it’s just the kids and their parents who are being harmed, but it’s not. All of the school districts are having to deal with [social media addiction and harm] and reallocate resources for [it],” Preston said.

ECSD Superintendent Timothy Smith, Ph.D., asked the presenters about the scope of social media litigation efforts across the country.

Phelps said she has reviewed complaints out of the San Mateo County Office of Education, which has brought a lawsuit. This area near Silicon Valley is where much of the tech world is housed. In another tech capital, two Seattle school districts were among the first to bring action against tech companies for harm caused by social media platforms.

Six lawsuits from Kentucky, two from New Jersey, and another from Arizona joined the growing list of claimants.

“Yesterday…I got the update of nine more,” Phelps said. “So there’s 14 total, I believe, right now that have been associated or tagged into that multidistrict litigation.”

Preston explained that LPR is working with a consortium of law firms on social media addiction and injury cases. “So we have a nationwide reach,” Preston said. “As far as experts in the science and everything else and preparing for these in the multidistrict litigation, we’re able to share all of that information and work together as a team.

“So, you’re not just hiring Levin Papantonio Rafferty,” she said. “You’re hiring an entire team.”

The consortium adds to LPR’s already vast resources, enabling the social media litigation team to attract the nation’s most knowledgeable experts on social media addiction and harm issues, Preston explained.