Allegheny Valley School District joins lawsuit against social media companies

The Allegheny Valley School District has joined a growing list of school districts across the country taking legal action against social media companies.

The district school board voted this week to join a civil, multi-jurisdictional lawsuit against social media companies including Facebook, TikTok and YouTube to hold those companies accountable for the way they operate and manage their products.

The lawsuit alleges social media is having a negative impact on school-aged children.

The application contains a contingent fee agreement with California-based Frantz Law Group, which means that the Allegheny Valley School District is not responsible for any fees or costs if the district does not receive any monetary compensation for the matter.

The Apollo-Ridge School District in Armstrong County is also part of the lawsuit.

The Frantz Law Group memo states that research confirms that social media plays a major role in causing mental health problems in adolescents, and that excessive and problematic use of social media is damaging to children’s mental, behavioral and emotional health. It also states that excessive use of social media is associated with increased rates of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, eating disorders and suicide.

The lawsuit alleges that the actions of social media companies related to their platforms contribute significantly to America’s youth mental health crisis, according to the memo.

“As the lawsuit alleges, the defendants made youth-targeted choices to maximize the time youth spend on the defendants’ social media platforms, and then designed their algorithms to feed children harmful content such as videos promoting eating disorders, violence, self-harm and suicide.” we read in the note. “The lawsuit alleges that the defendants are prioritizing profits over children’s mental health, and that the defendants’ current business models for their social media platforms are deeply flawed and causing real harm.”

According to the memo, in this dispute, each school district will file its own lawsuit in the local federal court. Within 30 days, the case will be transferred to federal court in San Francisco, where all cases of the school district against the defendants will be heard in what is known as a class action lawsuit.

Allegheny Valley School board member Paula Jean Moretti said she believed the dispute would highlight social media issues, adding she didn’t see anything wrong with joining the lawsuit.

“I like the idea of ​​us getting involved so we can be an example: ‘We want to bring this to the forefront,'” Moretti said.

She, along with school board members Larry Pollick, David Buchman, Kathleen Haas, Glenna Renaldi and Colleen Crumb, voted to continue the dispute. Pollick, the council’s chairman, said he understands the positives of media and technology and the benefits they bring to students, but the council cannot ignore the advertising and marketing that social media companies allegedly use to target students negatively.

Amy Sarno and Sal Conte objected. Antonio Pollino was absent.

Sarno agreed that social media and the internet could be dangerous, but deemed the proposed legal action “inauthentic”. She disagreed with the lawsuit’s view that social media is the root cause of the youth mental health crisis – it may be correlated but not the cause, Sarno said.

She said research conducted during the covid-19 pandemic shows that social media, if used properly, can actually improve students’ mental health and establish a form of connection.

“This litigation, if we continued it … in the end, however, does nothing. This does not force companies to make any changes,” she said. “And I think if we’re going to move forward… as a district, we also need to do our part to educate parents, educate students” about how to use social media properly and safely.

Conte agreed with Sarno’s comments.

Other local school districts that have filed similar lawsuits against social media companies include Pittsburgh Public Schools and the Seneca Valley, Mars Area, Knoch and Moniteau school districts.

Kellen Stepler is a writer working for Tribune-Review. You can contact Kellen by emailing or via Twitter .

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