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Local boards not joining $4B suit against social media companies

Boards don't rule out possibility of reconsidering at some point in the future.
Lakehead Public Schools 2021

THUNDER BAY — Neither Lakehead Public Schools nor the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board will be joining a $4-billion class-action lawsuit filed by four southern Ontario school boards against major social media companies.

Spokespeople for both local boards said they haven’t ruled out the possibility of reversing that decision down the road.

The Toronto District School Board, Toronto Catholic District School Board, Peel District School Board, and the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board filed the suit against Meta Platforms Inc., the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, Snap Inc., the owner of Snapchat, and ByteDance Ltd., the company that owns TikTok.

According to a release issued by Neinstein LLP, the boards allege the social media platforms are “negligently designed for compulsive use, have rewired the way children think, behave and learn, leaving educators and schools to manage the fallout.”

In a statement issued on Thursday, Lakehead Public Schools acknowledged the lawsuit and the issues social media use is causing in schools but said it doesn’t make financial sense to take the matter to court at this time.

“While Lakehead District School Board shares the concerns raised by the School for Change Coalition, the school boards involved in the coalition have far greater capacity and resources to address these issues in such a direct manner. As such, in the interest of fiscal responsibility and resource management, LDSB has not chosen to join the coalition at this time however, there are options to reconsider as the initiative moves forward,” reads the unsigned statement provided to Dougall Media.

The Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board said they are keeping an eye on the situation too.

"We share similar concers raised by the Schools for Social Media Change Coalition, however being that we are a smaller school board, we have chosen not to join the coalition," their statement reads. "We will continue to keep an eye on the situation at hand. The safety and wellbeing of our students and staff will always be a priority for our board."

The lawsuit says social media use is putting massive strains on the school boards’ finite resources, adding to the cost of mental health programming and personnel, increased IT costs, and additional administrative resources.

It asks that the social media giants help remediate these costs.

They also want the companies to redesign their products to keep students safe.

"There has been growing concern for years about the effect of social media on students' development, mental health, safety and emotional well-being. Urgent action is needed to protect students from further harm.

"That is why we have come together in bringing action against social media giants to make their products safer while addressing the disruptions they are causing to our educational mandate,” said Rashmi Swarup, director of education at the Peel District School Board, in a release issued by Neinstein LLP. 

None of the allegations from the boards have been proven in a court of law.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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