Prince George's County School Board considers suing social media companies

Thursday night, the Prince George’s County School Board will decide whether to retain counsel to potentially sue social media companies.

Some school districts across the country have already done this.

Based on the publicly posted agenda for Thursday's meeting, three law firms are vying for the right to represent the school district should it decide to sue.

None of the law firms commented to FOX 5 given the fact that the board hadn’t made a decision yet.

The crux of the lawsuit they could potentially join: Social media companies are negatively affecting kids, and it’s having an impact on the school, plus draining school resources.

The suit is filed in Northern California but school districts across the country have cosigned. One of those districts is in Cecil County, Maryland.

"Most public educators will tell you the mental health challenges we’re seeing right now are unprecedented and perhaps the biggest challenge we face right now," said Dr. Jeffrey Lawson, the Cecil County Public Schools superintendent.


Psychological Association issues health advisory for kids' social media use

The American Psychological Association issued 10 recommendations with one of the big ones being that kids should be trained in social media literacy.

Lawson says the social-emotional challenges social media causes in kids can be a drain on teachers in the classroom and the mental health resources district-wide.

Lawson says Cecil County joined this suit mainly to get social media companies to change how they market to kids.

The settlement involving e-cigarette maker JUUL got the district thinking about ways to address perceived harm toward students. JUUL was accused of marketing to young people in lawsuits filed against the company.

FOX 5 spoke to parents who think this is the responsibility of families, not schools to monitor their kids' social media.

Lawson agrees but with a caveat: "I think in a healthy, functioning, home environment, that is how these issues are handled. Unfortunately, we have thousands of students who don’t necessarily have that home support," he said. "This is not unlike other social issues where public education does not necessarily generate the problem. We’re more on the receiving end, we’re dealing with the problem, and it has really stretched us thin."

For their part, the social media companies have touted parental controls and limitations they’ve placed on their apps as proof they’ve made them safer. But it hasn’t satiated leaders in Washington.

President Biden used part of his State of the Union Address to discuss making the internet safer for kids. On April 26, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation that would limit social media use by kids and personalized algorithms by social media companies.

FOX 5 spoke with Luminis Health Psychiatrist Dr. Rakesh Goyal.

"Over the years now, people are realizing that there’s definitely a direct effect, but yes, there’s still a debate to what degree effect there is, how are we going to handle it? What is the level of responsibility of the companies? So, that debate is going on. But I think there’s a general consensus that we need to do something about it, because it’s definitely causing a problem," Dr. Goyal said, without opining on whether school districts should be taking this path.

Prince George’s County Schools didn’t make any officials available to talk to FOX 5 before Thursday night’s meeting.

This is a developing story. Check back with FOX 5 for updates.