Law & Courts

The List of Districts Suing Opioid Companies Is Growing. Do They Stand a Chance?

By Mark Lieberman — July 06, 2021 2 min read
Pharmaceuticals are seen in North Andover, Mass. on June 15, 2018.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

More than 80 school districts in 16 states are suing opioid manufacturers and distributors like Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson, hoping to get the companies to help pay for the costs of educating and supporting children affected by the ongoing addiction crisis.

Lawyers have said in court filings that they believe school districts nationwide have spent at least $127 billion—and likely much more—on services to address the opioid crisis, which has risen to national prominence in the last decade.

We’ve assembled a database with every school district that is involved in a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors. Participating districts enroll close to 1.6 million students.

District leaders say they’ve seen an increase in students with disabilities brought on by their mothers’ opioid use during pregnancy, as well as an increase in students with behavioral and attendance issues who experienced family trauma as a result of relatives who were addicted to drugs or arrested for possessing them.

The class-action lawsuit, filed last December in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, includes numerous districts in Illinois, Kentucky, Maine and West Virginia, as well as a handful each in California, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, New York, and Texas, according to an updated list provided last week to Education Week by attorneys representing districts in the ongoing litigation.

If your school district is participating and isn’t among the 86 mentioned, please get in touch: mlieberman@educationweek.org.

On a separate track, hundreds of school districts have thrown their hat in the ring to get a small piece of the settlement funds from a bankruptcy case from individuals and governments against drug company Purdue Pharma. The Rochester district in New York voted last month to authorize participation in a settlement agreement, according to a report in the Democrat and Chronicle.

The extent to which schools will be compensated from those proceedings remains to be seen.

In the meantime, please take a few minutes to read this article I wrote last month about the steep challenges schools have faced trying to help students for whom the opioid crisis has touched their lives.

Some districts have had to dramatically expand mental health counseling services. Many have seen exponential increases in the number of students with disabilities, and administrators believe opioid use is among the factors contributing to the increase.

The addiction crisis does not appear likely to abate anytime soon, either. The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have coincided with a nationwide increase in substance abuse.

Related Tags:

Education Week Library Staff contributed to this article.

Events

Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
Mission Possible: Saving Time While Improving Student Outcomes
Learn how district leaders are maximizing instructional time and finding the best resources for student success through their MTSS framework.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Reading & Literacy K-12 Essentials Forum Writing and the Science of Reading
Join us for this free event as we highlight and discuss the intersection of reading and writing with Education Week reporters and expert guests.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Law & Courts Supreme Court Asks for Biden Administration's Views on Legal Status of Charter Schools
Stemming from a suit over a North Carolina school's dress code, the issue is whether "public" charter schools act with government authority.
3 min read
Thunder storm sky over the United States Supreme Court building in Washington DC.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Law & Courts West Virginia Law Barring Transgender Girls From School Sports Upheld by Federal Judge
The decision is a turnabout for the judge, who cast doubt on the law in 2021 and issued an order allowing a transgender girl to compete.
4 min read
Judge gavel on law books with statue of justice and court government background. concept of law, justice, legal.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Law & Courts A Teacher Argued His MAGA Hat Was Protected Speech. Here's What a Federal Appeals Court Said
Did a principal violate a teacher's rights when she told him not to bring his Donald Trump-inspired hat to a racial-sensitivity training?
4 min read
Image of a gavel
iStock/Getty
Law & Courts School District Policy Basing Restroom Access on 'Biological Sex' Upheld by Appeals Court
The sharply divided appellate court rules against transgender student Drew Adams and possibly tees up a major fight in the Supreme Court.
5 min read
Transgender student Drew Adams speaks with reporters outside of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta on Dec. 5, 2019.
Transgender student Drew Adams speaks with reporters outside a federal courthouse in Atlanta in 2019. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled against him on Dec. 30.
Ron Harris/AP