1 Year After Tragedy, NJ School District To Sue Social Media Companies

BERKELEY, NJ — February will mark one year since 14-year-old Adriana Kuch took her own life after being bullied at school. The video of her attack was filmed and spread via social media. And after a year of making changes within the district, including new rules and a new superintendent, the Central Regional School District has announced it will be filing a lawsuit against some of the biggest social media platforms.

“The lawsuit does not seek an end to the social media platforms, but rather seeks to change how these companies operate, and hopefully compel them to take responsibility and make changes,” Board President Susan Cowdrick read from a prepared statement at the latest Board of Education meeting.

Specific companies named are TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. These apps harmfully target young people in the interest of increased profits, Cowdrick said.

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After Kuch’s death, the role of social media was a major topic, with legislators across the state considering how filming and sharing videos of bullying could be stopped. Rep. Chris Smith, who proposed that school officials should be required to notify parents if violent attacks are recorded, said ” bullying and violence are often compounded—and the victim further traumatized, further humiliated, and further mocked—when the crime is videotaped and shared on social media.” Read more: Bayville Teen’s Death Inspires Amendment To Parents Bill Of Rights

Central Regional students have an increased mental health need because of the negative impact of social media, Cowdrick said.

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And while the district is “definitely not the first” to file a complaint against the social media companies, Cowdrick said that the board hopes that by smaller districts like Central joining in with larger districts it will pressure the platforms and “effectuate positive long-term changes for the families of our students.”

The law firm representing the district in this matter is doing so on a contingent basis, Cowdrick said. The firm will be paid through a settlement if one is awarded, otherwise the district will pay nothing.

No amount of money can bring Kuch back or heal the suffering many have faced in the wake, Cowdrick said. But through the lawsuit, the board is making an effort “to make a difference for our entire community going forward,” she said.

Previous Reporting

‘We Want Justice’: Central Students Protest After Classmate’s Death

NJ Legislators Propose Amending Anti-Bullying Laws In Wake Of Suicide

4 Central Teens Charged In Recorded Attack Following Student’s Suicide
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