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Destructive, illegal TikTok challenges in schools must stop, warn superintendents

TikTok challenges have hit Highland Lakes campuses, and a recent dare to slap a teacher has local school officials sending warnings to parents. The October challenge is one of a school year of challenges being filmed and posted on the social media platform — one for each month. A September challenge called “devious licks” encouraged students to steal from campuses or vandalize facilities, particularly restrooms. Devious licks is slang for stealing. Students film the incident and post it on TikTok.

“We experienced some isolated incidents of vandalism in restrooms due to the most recent TikTok challenge,” said Keith McBurnett, superintendent of the Burnet Consolidated Independent School Distric. 

The October challenge urges students to film and post videos on the platform of a student slapping a teacher. Striking a teacher, who is considered a public servant, is a criminal offense and can bring third-degree felony charges against some youths, McBurnett said in his warning. Others would be subject to juvenile legal proceedings. Along with legal ramifications, districts can also apply their own disciplinary measures. 

“Please take time to discuss with your children the importance of not participating in dangerous, destructive, or illegal social media challenges, and specifically the importance of treating educators with respect,” McBurnett said in his message to parents. 

Marble Falls ISD Superintendent Dr. Chris Allen reiterated the seriousness of such activities.

“The behavior described in the challenge is a very serious offense and would require involvement from law enforcement,” he stated. “Striking a public official is a very serious criminal offense that the school would appropriately discipline.”

The September vandalism in Burnet was minor compared to what happened in other school districts. North East ISD in San Antonio reported students destroying mirrors, bathroom fixtures, and lights as a result of the TikTok dares. Some districts closed restrooms on particular campuses due to the damage or to limit it.

A high school in Fulton County, Georgia, began requiring staff members to escort students to the restroom as a result of the TikTok challenge.

TikTok has responded by trying to remove content or redirect hashtags associated with these challenges. The social media platform does not create or condone the behavior or postings.

“As much as social media can be a force for good, it has definitely been used by some to encourage inappropriate and sometimes illegal behavior,” McBurnett said. “We want to work side by side with parents to educate and prevent our students from participating in destructive, dangerous, or illegal behaviors encouraged by these TikTok challenges. 

“Avoiding these challenges can help students avoid the serious consequences that go along with them,” he added. 

Allen said the Marble Falls district and its staff encourage parents to monitor their children’s social media activities and talk with them about some of the dangers associated with the platforms. 

Of course, he added, it’s important that adults model good behavior on social media as well. 

“Unfortunately, we are seeing a significant increase in angry, negative, destructive, and, at times, illegal behavior from adults who are being incited by their consumption of social media,” Allen said.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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