Board of Education News with ABSS logo overlay.  Gavel in background

The Alamance-Burlington School System Board of Education unanimously agreed to join a nationwide lawsuit against major social media companies like Meta (Facebook, Instagram), TikTok, Snapchat, and Google (YouTube). The decision came after the board met Tuesday afternoon to hear a presentation from the law firms of Brooks Michael Blair Frazier and Black, P.A. and Ward Black Law regarding the litigation.

Greensboro-based Attorney Janet Ward Black with Ward Black Law gave a detailed presentation outlining how social media platforms have allegedly perpetrated a youth mental health crisis that is negatively impacting schools. They claim the companies' products and algorithms were designed to addict teen and adolescent users through features like inadequate age verification, insufficient parental controls, endless scrolling, constant notifications, and targeted content algorithms.

According to the firms, peer-reviewed studies and the companies' own internal research shows social media usage can lead to anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, and other mental health issues in young people.

The firms are pursuing lawsuits against the social media giants on behalf of school boards across the country. Their goal is to change how the companies operate to better safeguard children and teens, as well as receive compensation for expenses school districts have incurred related to addressing student mental health needs caused by social media. ABSS would pay no out-of-pocket fees or expenses for participating in the case. Any costs would be advanced by the attorneys and would be reimbursed from a monetary recovery, if the school district receives such recovery. Ward Black said attorneys representing our school district would be paid on a contingency fee (specifically, the attorneys would be paid a share of any proceeds the school district receives in the case).

Over 60 school boards representing over one million students have already joined the multidistrict litigation, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Cumberland County, Pitt County, Rockingham County, Union County and others in North Carolina.

"We're seeing the negative impacts of social media on our students every day, especially at the middle and high school levels. Students are frequently posting threats on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat or sharing threatening content from others. It's a real problem that's consuming valuable resources," said Dr. Kristy Davis, Acting Superintendent. "Our SROs and Administrators spend an enormous amount of time tracking these down. By joining this lawsuit, we're hopeful it will force these companies to improve age verification and parental controls. Their wellbeing has to be the top priority."

Drug Survey 
The Board also agreed to work with Alamance Citizens for a Drug Free Community to implement the “Too Good for Drugs” program and to survey a representative sample of 6, 7, 9, and 12th grade students with parental permission this spring to assess student substance use and school climate safety concerns.  The program is being spearheaded by the Alamance Citizens for a Drug Free Community. 

Budget Talks
As the District prepares its budget for the 2024-2025 school year, the Board of Education continued budget talks today, reviewing funding sources and engaging in discussions to establish priorities for allocating resources in the upcoming fiscal year. The board members analyzed the various revenue streams that contribute to the District's overall budget, including:

  • State sources: These include position allotments, dollar allotments, and categorical allotments, which provide funding for various aspects of the educational system, such as classroom teachers, school building administration, and instructional support personnel.

  • Local sources: These are typically the most flexible funds and can roll over into the fund balance if unused.

  • Federal sources: The district receives grants routed through the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), USDA grants, and funds from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) program, which is set to end in September 2024.

One area highlighted during the discussion was the District's overstaffing in certain support roles compared to the state allotments. For example, the state allotment for school counselors, psychologists, social workers, and nurses combined is 54.5 positions. However, the district currently employs 55 school counselors, 10 psychologists, 30 social workers, and 29 school nurses, totaling 69.5 positions over the state allotment. These additional positions are funded through local tax dollars and other sources, as the District has supplemented these roles due to safety concerns and the need for additional support services.

Board members were encouraged to consider factors such as the lack of fund balance, potential emergency and unplanned events, and the ending of ESSER funds. Each board member received three dots to place on the chart paper, indicating their personal top priorities for the upcoming school year. The exercise aimed to guide the District in developing a recommended budget that aligns with the Board's collective priorities.

Some of the Board’s top priorities included:  Virtual School remaining open, classified employee supplement, school health personnel, SRO in each school, coach’s supplement, athletic trainers, dual language program, and assistant principals.  

State of the District
Chief Academic Officer Revonda Johnson provided an overview of the student check-in scores for the first semester of the 2023-2024 academic year.  The data highlighted positive trends but also revealed areas for improvement across elementary, middle, and high school levels.  To address the learning needs of at-risk elementary students, ABSS implemented a tutoring program this year. Utilizing federal funds, the District hired two tutors for each elementary school. These tutors work with students individually on a daily basis, focusing on reading and math skills.  According to the data, the tutoring program has already yielded promising results.  

Additionally, ABSS will continue to provide ongoing support to address learning gaps and ensure student success. These efforts include:

  • Elementary Tutoring

  • Saturday Academy opportunities for all K-12 schools that want to take advantage of this in-person initiative.

  • Evening Academy for high school students to get back on track for graduation.

  • Tailored support for schools through the Academic Division.

  • Data days for all K-12 schools to review student data and make intentional plans for students who need enrichment and interventions.

Athletic Eligibility Changes 
The Board approved the suspension of its transfer-student athletic eligibility policy to address the redistricting of students from Eastern High School.  Typically, students who are redistricted to a new school would have to sit out for 365 days before being eligible for sports at the new school.  By waiving the athletic policy, the board aims to minimize disruption for student-athletes impacted by the Board’s recent redistricting in that school zone.  

In other action the Board approved a $3.7 million contract for roof replacement at Graham High School.