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TikTok Challenge Update - Tool or Trouble?

As with many innovations in cyber technology, social media users can use these platforms to upload pictures, family plans and short videos to the internet. The downside of this ability is that young, sometimes overactive minds can also incite harm and damage to property and people.



Assault, battery, and vandalism are all considered criminal acts under the California Penal Code. In some cases, the Education Code requires school officials to report criminal acts to law enforcement immediately. In all cases, it is considered best practice to immediately report crimes of violence that occur on school grounds to law enforcement.


This is definitely the case with the use of the TikTok platform to create “challenges” for other users to complete and record as a sort of “look at me” phenomena. In September of 2021 students across the nation were seen on video vandalizing school property and, more specifically, school bathrooms. This was labeled the "Devious Licks" challenge. In October of 2021, a new challenge began, this one known as "slap a teacher" or "smack a staff” which proved to be even more harmful than the September challenge.


Schools and school districts are ramping up efforts to help prevent these attacks and quell the increase in violence.


Most recently, in February and early March of 2022, there were reports of a TikTok challenge involving Orbeez beads (water beads) and airsoft guns and bringing the airsoft guns into school and shooting them at teachers and students. This new challenge has school officials and law enforcement on high alert. Many have issued warnings that these incidents will not be tolerated and are being referred to police.


Prevention and Response


California schools are actually a step or two ahead of most of the country. Thanks to legislation in California, all public schools (K-12 with 50 or more students) are required to have a Comprehensive School Safety Plan (CSSP). This plan is a perfect place to look for polices and administrative regulations that speak to the topic of school safety.


Checklist


  1. Remind students, parents/guardians, and all staff of the CSSP and include some goals on social media behavior in your Action Plan.

  2. Review the following policies and administrative regulations and update them, where necessary, to include cyber threats and attacks: • Conduct • Bus Conduct • Bullying • Student Disturbances • Vandalism and Graffiti • Weapons and Dangerous Instruments • Positive School Climate • Discipline • Suspension and Expulsion/Due Process • Hate-Motivated Behavior

  3. Work with local law enforcement organizations to seek support and cooperation.

  4. Continue to apply positive behavioral intervention strategies to reward good behavior.

  5. Use your existing Behavioral Threat Assessment team to track social medial behaviors and keep ahead of the challenges.

  6. Provide parents and guardians with a brief letter or post regarding efforts the school is taking to try and prevent these threats and challenges, including consequences for both appropriate and inappropriate behavior at school. Following is a sample letter/post: Dear Parent/Guardian The purpose of this letter is to inform you that it has come to our attention that there is a new dangerous social media challenge which includes assault on school staff. We want to make sure all families are aware of this disturbing revelation as well as the severe consequences that can result from participation. The February challenge includes bringing airsoft guns into school and shooting small projectiles at teachers and students, potentially causing injuries. The District Board of Trustees Policy regarding student conduct strictly prohibits conduct that endangers students and staff and/or others, including, but not limited to, physical violence. Students who violate these rules may be subject to discipline, including but not limited to suspension or expulsion in accordance with Board Policy and Administrative Regulation. Our protocols also include contacting law enforcement when there is an assault. It is important for parents to know that a student assault on a staff member could also result in civil penalties for parents. If your student is aware of an incident that is going to occur please have them report it to site administration. We urge families to speak with your student(s) about the dangers of these social media challenges. Please remind them that once these images/videos are posted online, it can become a permanent record of their potentially criminal activity. We know that students participating in these challenges are a few, however, those few cause disruptions for the entire school community. For more information about social media safety please visit Common Sense Media.

  7. Remind your school community of the importance of “See or Hear Something – Say Something.”

  8. Provide tip line resources such as “WeTip” (online, phone number, and/or the app) and remind your community that it is everyone’s responsibility to create and maintain a safe school environment.

Looking Ahead


Here are a couple of closing thoughts and ideas you may want to consider.


A behavioral intervention team is appropriately positioned and trained to handle potential threats or acts of dangerous behavior. Make sure they are equipped with the tools they need to get ahead of the curve when it comes to social media use and abuse. Consider including social media-savvy team members who can be on the lookout for these threats and activate the team when necessary.


If you employ PBIS, make sure it includes social media behavioral points in the plan.


Resources

  • IMReady’s “Administrator’s Guide to the Comprehensive School Safety Plan”

  • Safer Schools Together Digital Threat Assessment Training

  • WeTip anonymous reporting

  • Rancho San Juan High School District (sample letter)


If you would like assistance preparing for a safe return to school, you can contact one of our security and emergency preparedness experts at imready@keenan.com.


AP Keenan’s Loss Control and IMReady Bulletins are intended to help clients identify and mitigate hazards and potential liability exposures. We do not represent or guarantee that they will be able to identify or address all potential hazards,or offer a fail-safe mechanism for dealing with them. We make no promise or representation that clients will recognize improved loss experience or premium savings as a result of these services. AP Keenan is not a law firm and no opinion, suggestion, or recommendation of the firm or its employees shall constitute legal advice. Clients are advised to consult with their own attorney for a determination of their legal rights, responsibilities and liabilities, including the interpretation of any statute or regulation, or its application to client’s business activities.