The social media app TikTok has become one of the most popular among teens and young adults over the last several years, providing users the opportunity to record short clips of everything from dance routines to practical jokes and post them online.
However, the site has also become the birthplace of numerous “challenges,” and some are evidently making their way into Cheshire schools.
For the month of November, the challenge is to “Kiss your friend’s girlfriend at school.” But prior, the challenges focused more on schools and led to some destructive behavior.
Superintendent of Schools Jeff Solan explained to The Herald that this year, the TikTok challenge, specifically one for September that challenged students to commit minor vandalism, has cost the District nearly $2,000 worth of damage done to school property, particularly involving the student bathrooms.
“It’s really disappointing and frustrating,” he said. “Not just for us, but the students are frustrated, too, when they see that they can’t use a bathroom because one of their fellow students decided to act this way. It’s hard.”
There has been a long history of bathroom vandalism at CHS, and in some years the damage has cost the District upwards of $10,000, according to Solan.
“It’s not every student who acts this way,” Solan clarified. “It’s a select few who chose to make life difficult for their peers, and it’s just not fair to the rest of the community.”
The October “challenge” was more ominous, as it encouraged students to potentially assault a teacher while in school by slapping or “smacking” them.
Cheshire didn’t experience any issues of violence stemming from these TikTok challenges, Solan explained, but videos taken in districts from around the country that chronicle the kind of damage these challenges cause.
“These students are really brazen,” he said, about incidents in other school districts. “There are videos from across the country of these students going up to teachers and harming them — in one instance a student pulled a wig off of a teacher. These are obviously not happening here in Cheshire, but it’s alarming nonetheless.”
In order to combat the issue of such Internet challenges, Solan is asking that teachers and parents be extra vigilant in monitoring what students are consuming online. He also stated that students caught vandalizing school property will be dealt with by the proper authorities.
“We can’t control everything kids do online, but we can be that extra surveillance,” he suggested. “It’s such a frustrating issue, and unfortunately something we’ve dealt with a lot in the past few years.”
The topic was first raised during an Oct. 21 meeting of the Board of Education, when member Faith Ham brought it to the attention of her collegues.
“The infamous TikTok challenge has touched down at CHS,” she warned. “I know in September the challenge was to steal items, such as paper towel dispensers, and for October the challenge (was) to hit a teacher.”
“(The September challenge) was called ‘devious licks’ where students were challenged to steal school property,” Solan further explained. “Fortunately, there have been zero reports of the October challenge to hit a teacher, but we are consistently monitoring the situation.”