Blog entry by Akagami Shanks
The Dover School District is joining schools across the nation warning parents about nationwide TikTok social media trends that are leading to property damage and inappropriate conduct toward school staff and classmates.
The social media trends have made national headlines after multiple students made headlines for assaulting teachers and damaging school property, encouraged by TikTok “challenges,” where students film themselves doing the current dare or challenge.
“The Dover School District is aware of a disturbing list of TikTok challenges that are being circulated on social media. They are more than just challenges, most on the list are illegal offenses, and will result in disciplinary action and potentially legal action,” Superintendent Will Harbron wrote in a letter to parents last week.
Damage at Dover schools
Dover schools have experienced vandalism as a result of these challenges. Cars were keyed at the high school, and restrooms were vandalized at the middle school and high school due to the “devious lick” September challenge that urged students to steal or vandalize something from school, according to Harbron. He said the repair or replacement of bathroom fixtures is expensive and creates inconvenience when restrooms are limited.
October’s TikTok challenge has been coined as “slap a teacher” or “smack a teacher.” Students are being challenged to walk up to a teacher or a school staff member, slap them and run off, while videotaping the incident to post on social media.
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TikTok tweeted last week, stating the challenge was "an insult to educators everywhere" and any related content posted to its platform that goes against its community guidelines would be removed immediately.
Harbron says physically assaulting a staff member may result in a Title IX complaint that will require investigation that can result in disciplinary action. In his letter to parents, Harbron outlined that while unlawfully touching or striking someone is usually considered a misdemeanor, when it comes to school employees, there is a specific statute that can make the action subject to extended terms of imprisonment and could result in serious consequences including but not limited to arrest, suspension, or expulsion from school.
NEA-NH also shares concerns
The leader of the National Education Association of New Hampshire, the state's largest teachers union, said the latest disruptive TikTok trends are the latest battle in the "chaos and vitriol" witnessed in districts in recent months, following verbal attacks and threats of physical violence targeting school board members and educators.
“The lack of respect shown at school board meetings is setting a dangerous precedent for students and their perceptions about what’s acceptable in our society,” said Megan Tuttle, NEA-NH president.
'There should be zero tolerance'
As TikTok challenges encourage students to perpetuate what schools deem unacceptable behavior, the NEA-NH is also concerned.
“We urge parents and caregivers to talk to their kids and warn them of the serious consequences they face for such stunts, especially slapping a teacher," Tuttle said. "Threatening and engaging in physical harm is not a joke. We believe there should be zero tolerance for such behavior."
The organization received numerous reports of bathroom vandalism and damage connected to the September challenge. To date, it had not been made aware of any incidents connected to the "slap a teacher" from its members across the state.