“Slap a Teacher” TikTok Challenge – the New “Devious Licks”

October 18, 2021 Criminal Defense, Juvenile Offenses, News & Announcements

“Devious Licks” Challenge

TikTok, a wildly popular social media platform where users share short videos, was recently overwhelmed by the “Devious Licks” challenge. This challenge centered around students posting videos of themselves vandalizing their schools and stealing items from them– from things as small as disposable masks to as large as bathroom sinks. As a result, TikTok removed content around the trend and redirected the hashtag #DeviousLicks to their Community Guidelines to discourage such behavior. 

If you would like to read more about the origin of this viral trend and the criminal charges participants face, you can do so here.

“Slap a Teacher” Challenge Emerges

The “Slap a Teacher” challenge began gaining momentum in early October, encouraging students to record themselves slapping or punching a school employee without being caught in the action, and then uploading the video to TikTok. Broward and Miami Dade school districts moved swiftly to stop the emergence of this new TikTok challenge that required students to assault a school staff member. As a result, the school districts warned parents and students of the repercussions of engaging in the trend. Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent of Miami-Dade Public Schools, made it clear there was a zero-tolerance policy for this behavior, stating “we will investigate any such act and shall prosecute to the full extent of the law anyone who engages in this very disturbing type of behavior.” Broward County Public Schools issued the statement:

Broward County Public Schools is aware of virtual, monthly challenges being circulated on the social media platform TikTok. The most recent challenge encourages students to commit a violent act by slapping a teacher or school staff member. Previous challenges have promoted destroying school property and stealing. District and school leadership continue to inform families about these dangerous challenges and remind them that students will face school discipline and law enforcement consequences if they participate. Ensuring safe and secure learning environments for our students, teachers and staff remain our highest priorities.

This trend was thought to have been seen in South Carolina where an elementary school student assaulted a teacher by hitting her in the back of the head. Two seventh-graders in Robeson County, North Carolina, were also accused of participating in the challenge when they slapped a substitute teacher. Both students were disciplined and removed from the campus, with the district planning to petition for assault charges against the students.

Just a Hoax?

A TikTok Spokesperson stated that this “alleged challenge would violate our policies and we would aggressively remove such content…but the reality is that we have not found related content on our platform, and most people appear to be learning about the offline dare from sources other than TikTok.” Furthermore, many people believe that there is no solid evidence that the “Slap a Teacher” challenge is a real threat. Disinformation researcher Abbie Richards, who focuses on TikTok trends, believes that the lack of TikToks featuring this behavior indicates that the challenge was a hoax exacerbated and turned reality by school districts and local news. Regarding the students who have been accused of carrying out the challenge, no instances of assault were recorded and put on TikTok, which is a requirement for the challenge. Richards tweeted that, besides a list featuring TikTok challenges for each month that has circulated the internet, there are no videos of this challenge being carried out, and a teacher being attacked in a classroom by a student isn’t evidence that the challenge is real. Although it would be great if this dangerous challenge was actually a hoax, only time will tell.

Florida Law

Anyone who engages in this challenge can face serious legal repercussions in the form of battery or assault charges. In Florida, assault is either a physical or verbal threat to harm another and does not require actual contact be made. This crime is classified as a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and up to a $500 fine. Battery occurs either by intentionally striking another person against their will or causing bodily harm to another person. Battery is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.  To read more about either assault or battery in the state of Florida, click here.

This article was written by Sarah Kamide

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