The district alleges that it has suffered widespread financial and operational harm from social media usage and addiction among students. The lawsuit cites factors including the resources required to provide counseling services to students in crisis, and to investigate and respond to threats made against schools and students over social media.
"This mental health crisis is no accident," the suit says. "It is the result of the Defendants' deliberate choices and affirmative actions to design and market their social media platforms to attract youth."
At more than 90 pages, the suit offers extensive citations in support of its claims, including surveys showing a 30% increase from 2009 to 2019 in the number of Seattle Public Schools students who said they felt "so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row that [they] stopped doing some usual activities."
The lawsuit has parallels to cases against Juul Labs over its marketing of e-cigarettes to youth, which led to a groundswell of litigation against the company. Seattle Public Schools filed its own suit against Juul with similarities to its case against the social media titans, likewise citing Washington state's public nuisance law.
Seattle Public Schools is seeking compensation not only for what it describes as significant resources already diverted to address the crisis, including counselors and mental health services, but also to increase its efforts in the future.
The district "needs a comprehensive, long-term plan and funding to drive a sustained reduction in the record rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and other tragic indices of the mental health crisis its youth are experiencing at Defendants' hands," the complaint says.