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Seneca Valley may enter social media lawsuit

JACKSON TWP — After several school districts in the county received part of a settlement in a class-action lawsuit against the vape company Juul, Seneca Valley is considering signing on with another multi-district suit.

The school board is expected to vote next week on participating in a group lawsuit against Meta Platforms, Facebook Holdings, Snap, TikTok, YouTube and other social media companies.

Matt Hoffman, Seneca Valley solicitor, said the school districts contend that the algorithms used by the social media companies to maximize usage drive adolescents toward content that has an adverse effect on their mental health.

The school board in October approved a resolution “supporting additional safeguards for internet and technology applications to protect our children.”

Statistics in the resolution include claims that students who spend more than two hours per day on social media are more prone to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression and higher levels of psychological distress and suicidal thoughts.

The resolution supports expanding legislation, regulation or other local measures regarding the marketing of dangerous apps and easily accessible pornography.

Other rules would call for the cooperation of social media platforms when school officials identify threats or copyright infringement and additional safeguards on dating or stranger-meeting apps.

The same legal team that represented the school districts in the Juul lawsuit is handling the social media suit, Hoffman said.

If the school districts win in court, financial damages would be awarded and split between the districts suing.

If a settlement is reached, as in the Juul suit, the districts also would share those funds.

Seneca Valley netted about $85,000 in the Juul settlement, which will be spent on vape education, prevention and detection on the secondary campus.

Hoffman said it is early in the social media lawsuit, and while he knows of no other districts in the county that have signed on, more could join.

“This is evolving,” he said. “It’s fairly new.”

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