Updated with background on incidents at schools.
CLARKSVILLE, TN (CLARKSVILLE NOW) – The Clarksville-Montgomery County School System has filed a lawsuit over a growing mental health crisis among students that it says has been caused by social media companies.
The Frantz Law Group, working with Lewis Thomason, filed the lawsuit the week of May 8 against Facebook, Google, Instagram, Meta, Snapchat, Tik Tok, WhatsApp and YouTube on behalf of CMCSS, according to a news release.
The school system is seeking accountability by social media companies for a lack of controls surrounding student access and appropriate content.
“There are a litany of issues caused by children using social media without proper protections in place,” said attorney Chris McCarty of Lewis Thomason law firm in the release. “These issues cause disruptions in schools, increased costs and safety concerns. The Clarksville-Montgomery County School System is taking a brave and proactive step to seek accountability and marked changes in the way social media giants interact with children.”
CMCSS confirmed to Clarksville Now that it has filed the suit.
Schools Director Dr. Jean Luna-Vedder said in the news release that over the years, the school system has observed a rise in mental health issues throughout their district. She cited examples such as threats of school violence, cyberbullying, inappropriate content, and other challenges are linked to the lack of protections and controls throughout social media platforms.
Incidents at schools
The problems came to a head in the fall of 2021 when over 50 students were suspended from one school over one Tik Tok challenge, and another challenge caused tens of thousands in property damage to school buildings.
In November that year, the 50 students were suspended at West Creek High School after a video showing students raising their hands or phones simulating a weapon went viral on Tik Tok. The video gained almost 500,000 likes before it was made private by the video’s creator – a sophomore at the school.
In September 2021, a Tik Tok challenge that encouraged students to steal or destroy property led to over $20,000 worth of damage to Clarksville-Montgomery County school buildings.
“Without cooperation and support from social media companies,” Luna-Vedder said, “CMCSS has been fighting an uphill battle. We need to protect our children, our schools and our society.”
Student anxiety and depression
William Shinoff, an attorney with the Frantz Law Group, added in the news release, “Studies link social media use in adolescents with an increase in mental health issues including anxiety and depression. Students, administrators, parents and teachers do not have the resources to address these major concerns. Social media companies have the power to make positive changes to protect children and stop negligent practices.”
Shinoff and McCarty have asked other Tennessee school districts interested in joining the lawsuit to contact them. They can be reached online at the Lewis Thomason website.
CMCSS said they will keep families updated as the litigation progresses.
Chris Smith contributed to this report.
— to clarksvillenow.com