Chandler Unified taking on social media giants

Chandler Unified School District is joining an effort to hold social media companies accountable for the adverse impact they’ve had on the mental health of students. (File Photo) 

Chandler Unified School District is joining an effort to hold social media companies accountable for the adverse impact they’ve had on the mental health of students.

The Governing Board voted unanimously on April 12 to join a lawsuit led by Scottsdale attorney Joseph C. Tann. The two largest Arizona school districts – Mesa and Chandler – are now both part of the fight.

“More and more research suggests that algorithms, corporate decisions, and business strategy of companies such as Tik Tok, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have contributed to unprecedented rates of anxiety, depression, thoughts of self-harm, body image issues, and even suicidal ideation in schoolchildren throughout the country – and including right here in Arizona,” Tann told the board.

“In short, these companies designed their platforms in a way that they know negatively impacts youth mental health in order to boost their profits by maximizing the amount of time that kids spend on their platforms, just so they can sell more ads,” he asserted.

The board’s move won praise from Katey McPherson, a Chandler educator and a leading advocate in the region for more mental health services for young people.

“I am thrilled that school districts across our state are acknowledging the pressures and issues our students face on and because of social media,” she said, calling the industry “truly negligent and not supportive of our children.”

McPherson said the district’s “next logical step simultaneously would be to not allow phones in the ‘ON’ position during the school day.

“When I survey principals and superintendents about how much of their day is spent fighting social media, most report 50-80% of a disciplinary issue at grades 5-12 have some sort of element of social media in them,” she said.

“We have all of the causal and correlative research, the CDC and the Surgeon General saying this should be delayed for children.

“It’s long overdue for school districts to get brave and stop the use of this on campus,” McPherson added. “It’s truly a battlefield for our kids. I know this as we are raising 4 teenage girls. It’s a daunting task and a true extra layer of parenting and school admin.”

The Governing Board approved three actions, agreeing to:

• Becoming a plaintiff in litigation filed against social media companies.

• Hiring the law firms of Keller Rohrback and Joseph C. Tann as legal counsel in the litigation.

• Adopting a fee structure. If the school districts get a settlement or win a judgment against the social media companies, the attorneys will get 25%.

“I think that we have seen how much social media has taken over some of the lives of our children and in our students and how much their self-worth seems to be determined by how many likes they get on social media,” said board member Barb Mozdzen.

“I think this is something that has really harmed children across America.”

Tann helped lead the litigation against vaping companies such as Juul. That case ended in a settlement, the details of which Chandler Unified officials have refused to divulge.

Tann said he is speaking with several other Arizona school districts about also joining the suit, including Scottsdale and Paradise Valley.

In other action April 12 Governing Board meeting:

New laptops for Hamilton, ACP

Chandler Unified is expanding its program to provide every student with a laptop. Students at Arizona College Prep and Hamilton high schools will now be added to the program, which started about a year ago at Chandler High.

The expansion means that every student at half of the district’s high schools will have a laptop to take home.

The district is trying to narrow narrow the digital divide that keeps some students from being able to do homework on computers at home.

The district’s logo is etched into the laptops to discourage theft. Parents can also purchase an insurance program that will help limit their cost of replacing a lost or stolen laptop.

The cost is just over $4 million.

New interactive flat panels

CUSD will spend more than $1.6 million to install interactive flat panels at seven locations. It’s phase one of a $16 million project to add the displays to all schools. There are six phases planned.

The six locations in phase one are Andersen Elementary; Frye; Jacobson; Knox Gifted Academy; Riggs; Shumway Leadership Academy; and Melinda Romero Instructional Resource Center.

Prices going up

The district is also dealing with inflation. The board approved awarding more money on five contracts it had previously approved because of rising prices and other reasons.

• The cost for public communication equipment went from $350,000 to $450,000.

• The $200,000 it approved in June 2022 for telecommunications services is now $500,000.

• The contract to provide substitute teachers was expected to be $10 million. It’s expected to reach $13 million by the end of this year.

• CUSD hired an architectural firm for $1 million. Now, it’s a $2 million contract as the district has increased the number of its building projects.

• The fifth contract was to renew an existing HVAC contract.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.