Social media challenges inciting vandalism and theft in schools

Damaged bathrooms and flooded hallways are just some of the destruction one Tennessee school district has experienced in recent weeks. The district blames social media challenges, including one on TikTok called “devious licks,” that incited kids to steal or destroy classroom property and post it online. 

“Across our 14 middle schools and high schools, there have been over 100 incidents of vandalism and theft over the last few weeks that have been linked to these challenges,” said district spokesman Anthony Johnson. 

“These thoughtless actions come with serious consequences. Dozens of students have faced consequences and their families are left paying thousands of dollars in fines and restitutions,” Johnson added. 

TikTok said the alleged challenge would “violate” its policies and it would “aggressively remove such content.” But TikTok also said it has not found the challenge on its platform. 

There is a calendar of challenges circulating online. In October, students are being encouraged to slap a teacher — prompting warnings from police and school districts nationwide. Several students have already been arrested for apparently following through. 

“Assaulting any employee is a zero-tolerance offense that comes with the mandatory one-year expulsion,” Johnson said. 

Addison Goldberg and Lily Lambert, who attend one of the vandalized Tennessee schools, said their classmates who partake in the challenges are seeking attention. 

“They just want more popularity,” Lambert said. 

“It makes you noticed and it brings you to the attention of your peers. And the higher level of vandalism is, the more attention that you’re going to get,” Goldberg said. 

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