SPS social media lawsuit met with Seattle Student Union protest

Students push for higher counselor to student ratios in response to mental health concerns


Seattle Student Union

Seattle Student Union, or SSU, is pushing back against the school district’s lawsuit directed at social media companies.

Annie Welman, Editor-in-chief

As Seattle students have emerged from years of online school and returned to the classroom, families and educators alike have raised concerns about mental health among students. While some students have pointed to a lack of mental health resources or COVID as reasons for mental health issues, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has recently chosen another path in response to student struggles.

In early January, SPS filed a complaint against a collection of major social media companies, arguing that they are partly the cause of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. Though this is the first of such cases pursued by a school district, the Kent School District has also joined the complaint.

In response to the lawsuit, the Seattle Student Union (SSU) has voiced their opposition, arguing that the district should focus on other strategies for improving student mental health. Chetan Soni, the executive student director of SSU, explained his outlook on the lawsuit in a student press conference at the Washington Journalism Education Association State Conference.

perception has been skewed [by the lawsuit] to focus the blame on social media companies,” Soni said.

Rather than targeting social media companies and shifting the blame away from the District, SSU members argue that SPS should be dedicating resources towards alternative changes, such as providing higher counselor to student ratios.

“We’ve had three, four month waitlists to see a counselor and unfortunately … that is just not acceptable,” Soni said.

The lawsuit will not take resources from the SPS budget, as the independent law firm representing SPS is taking the case on a “contingency basis,” says the SPS website. Though the lawsuit could result in a monetary settlement, Soni believes that SPS already has the necessary resources to put changes in place.

“The district refuses to invest in youth mental health support,” Soni said.

In addition to monetary gains, the district has other intentions. SPS has shared that the objective with the lawsuit is not to eradicate social media entirely, but, as a press release from Jan. 10 describes, is to “… force these companies to take responsibility for the harm caused by their business practices.”

Though SSU acknowledges the harmful impacts of social media, they have protested this lawsuit because they believe there are better alternatives for SPS. This protest has included press releases and participating in interviews with local news agencies, such as a KNKX interview with Noir Goldberg, an executive board member and BHS junior.

Goldberg volunteered to participate in the interview after KNKX reached out to SSU in hopes of hearing their perspective. On KNKX, Goldberg described how social media is only one of many factors to blame, and that she hopes the district focuses on implementing more counselors.

“There [are] multiple ways to mitigate the effects of mental health [issues] within schools,” Goldberg said. “… we have asked [SPS] multiple times to increase funding for mental health support. So that would be counselors and therapists …”

Currently, Soni, Goldberg and others are working on putting together specific goals for counselors in schools. Based on recommendations from the National Counselor Board and SSU conversations, Goldberg believes that the target counselor to student ratio should be 200 to one. In comparison, the current counselor to student ratio at BHS is approximately 300 to one, and not all schools throughout the district are the same.

“… we want the counselors to be representative of the diversity within the school,” Goldberg said.

As the lawsuit progresses, SSU will continue to advocate for alternative strategies to improve mental health, in hopes of putting more counselors in schools and investment in these resources.