A viral TikTok trend that challenges students to post videos of themselves slapping teachers this month has put authorities on high alert for classroom assault.
Reports are emerging nationwide of law enforcement and school officials warning about the “devious licks” trend, which encourages students to post videos of themselves performing a destructive act on campus each month from September to June.
This month’s challenge: “Smack a staff member.”
The trend already appears to be gaining steam. Missouri news stop KYTV reported Tuesday that a teacher in Springfield was slapped by a student as part of the challenge.
On Sunday, Newsweek reported that a South Carolina elementary school student smacked a female teacher in the back of the head.
The California Teachers Association has advised educators to treat the “pranks” as crimes, urging administrators to pursue expulsion and criminal prosecution.
“Slapping a teacher, in spite of of whether it results in injury, is assault and battery and is completely unacceptable and illegal. Recording in a classroom or on other school character without permission is illegal,” the notice reads.
TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, based in Beijing, has not commented publicly on the trend, which the video-sharing platform neither supports nor censors.
But a watchdog group said Wednesday that the platform’s apparent failure to flag or suspend the videos may change as the challenges, nevertheless posted online, take on a sexualized character in upcoming months.
November’s challenge to students is “kiss your friend’s girlfriend at school,” December’s is to “deck the halls and show your *****” and January’s is to “jab a breast.”
“These are not pranks, they are crimes, and several of them are sexual assault. Some of them include kissing, groping, and exposure,” Lina Nealon, director of corporate and strategic initiatives for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, told The Washington Times.
Ms. Nealon additional that the platform could ruin the long-term educational and career options of the students themselves by creating a video record they can never erase.
“TikTok creates an ecosystem of abuse and bad behavior. These social media platforms know the harm they create, but they continually try to push accountability onto parents and children to police themselves on the toxic platforms they’ve produced,” Ms. Nealon said.
The Broward Teachers Union in Florida has already asked parents to monitor their children’s social media accounts for the trend.
“This is a flat-out, calculated plan to commit a crime on a person, and that’s not okay,” Anna Fusco, the president of the Broward union, told USA Today on Oct. 1.
The monthly challenges started last month with an exhortation to “vandalize school bathrooms,” resulting in incidents of character damage that got students suspended and arrested nationwide.
The last four monthly challenges will continue the themes.
February will challenge students to “mess up school signs,” March to “make a mess in the courtyard or cafeteria,” April to “grab some eggz (another stealing challenge),” May to include in a “ditch day” and June to “flip off in the front office.”
The Hill reported Tuesday that Connecticut Attorney General William Tong is seeking to meet with the platform’s officials to address the “unhealthy impact TikTok is having on the mental and physical safety of young people in Connecticut.”
Police departments across the country have signaled their intention to aggressively probe the incidents, which have disproportionately impacted the United States, despite secluded reports of similar behavior in Canada and Latin America.
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