Wake County School Board, NC Department of Justice Meet to Talk Student Mental Health

By ABC 11 staff Monday, March 11, 2024

To watch video reports click here.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) — Wake County Public Schools is taking a stand against social media companies and their practices that drastically harm the mental health of children.

The school board hosted a town hall meeting with the NC Department of Justice on Monday at Athens Drive Magnet High School in Raleigh.

This meeting comes after the board voted to join a lawsuit last month against four social media giants.

The lawsuit alleges that companies like Meta, Google and Snapchat are negatively impacting the mental health of students. It seeks financial compensation to “alleviate the strain on school resources.”

One state leaders at Monday’s meeting pointed out that suicide is now the second leading cause of death for North Carolina children between the ages of 10-18. Last year, the US Surgeon General issued an advisory about social media’s affect on young people’s mental health.

According to a study from the U.S. Surgeon General:

  • Up to 95 percent of young ages 13 to 17 report using a social media platform
  • Adolescents who spend more than 3 hours per day on social media face double the risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes, including symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • 46 percent of adolescents aged 13 to 17 said social media makes them feel worse

“It is going to take the entire community to do anything because these social media platforms are too big,”Camissa Kerr of Wake Forest said.

Kerr blames social media for her son’s death. At 19, her son William overdosed on fentanyl.

“It was due to a pill that hit bottle on Snapchat. So that’s my biggest concern today is just, you know, just to kind of get that out. So and I know that’s a huge issue right now.”

Chris Heagarty, the chair of the Wake County Board of Education, said he wants social media platforms to adopt common-sense protections for minors to protect their health and well-being.

“We have been wrestling with a number of problems in our school systems that are all directly tied to social media,” Heagarty said.

He also hopes to hold these corporations accountable for their role in the student mental health crisis.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein was part of Monday’s discussion. He said it’s important to make sure that the rules in place are also being enforced.

“(Children are) not allowed to be on (social media sites) until they’re 13, but 40 percent of 8-12-year-olds are already on,” Stein said.

WCPSS said it and many other districts across the state are struggling to provide sufficient mental health resources to students as rates of depression, anxiety, threats and violence, and suicidal ideation rise.

Wake County is among 60 other school districts that have joined this lawsuit. This includes Durham Public Schools, Cumberland County Schools, Johnston County Schools and Moore County Schools.

“Our ultimate goal is always to provide support and the highest quality education for our students, and this litigation is an important step in doing that,” Heagarty said.

This article was originally posted by ABC 11.

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