The Montrose County School District is joining a multi-party suit targeting social media’s at-times corrosive effect on young people’s mental health.
About a month ago, Frantz Law Group reached out to MCSD about a new class action lawsuit; the district previously was part of another Frantz Group lawsuit against Juul Labs Inc. and other major vape companies. That suit resulted in a $106,000 award for MCSD.
At the school board’s meeting on the evening of March 7, Superintendent Carrie Stephenson raised the issue of joining the lawsuit and the school board unanimously approved it.
Joining the suit does not come at a cost to the district; paperwork to formally join is pending.
The lawsuit goes after social media on the allegation that social media companies knew of their risks to children and teens and continued to profit off of them regardless.
In October of 2021, Frances Haugen, who once worked at Facebook, told Congress that the social media empire is aware of how harmful the site is to youth. She demanded that something be done to prevent Facebook from continuing this conduct.
According to a report by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, covering trends in youth from 2011 to 2021, 36% of female high school students experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2011. By 2021 this number went up to 57%. For male high school students, 21% of them experienced these feelings in 2011; 29% experienced this in 2021.
The U.S. Surgeon General released an advisory in 2021 making people aware of a mental health crisis in our youth, stating an increase in poor mental health such as depression and anxiety for them, and listing technology along with social media as one of the factors for this incline.
Frantz Law Group is reaching out to school districts like Montrose’s as it pursues social media sites Facebook, TikTok, Snap, Youtube and others.
The decision to join the action move comes at the same time the district expects to receive its settlement from the Juul lawsuit.
MCSD first heard from Frantz Law Group, a firm headquartered in California, during spring of 2020. The firm was interested in the school district joining the litigation against Juul and other vape companies. The district opted to participate in April 2020.
Numbers show that in 2017 Colorado teens were vaping at twice the national average, and the larger region containing Montrose county had the highest number of teens vaping in the Centennial State.
At the time of the lawsuit, the district was well aware of the vape epidemic. School nurses were giving public presentations about the dangers of vaping at schools like Johnson Elementary. Matt Jenkins, then transition coordinator for MCSD, along with other members of the district, wrote a grant in spring of 2017 to help prevent substance abuse within their student population.
This School Health Professional Grant, from the Colorado Department of Education, is a three-year grant that MCSD first received for the years 2017-2020 and again received for 2020-2023.
The grant money goes toward improving youth mental health, as well as reducing substance abuse. Through this grant school districts receive $275,000 a year, and MCSD uses it to pay the salaries of two school social workers and one school nurse.
Prior to this funding, the district had not seen school social workers for decades, Jenkins said.
The district is again applying this school year. New funds, said Jenkins, will be used for suicide prevention along with substance abuse prevention.
This grant is funded through retail marijuana tax dollars.
MCSD is also expecting to receive financial settlement for this vape lawsuit any day now; no plans for the specific uses of the $106,000 award have yet been made.
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