Authorities are warning that a dangerous new TikTok challenge that encourages students to assault their teachers could result in hefty criminal consequences, never mind physical retaliation.
What are the details?
The "devious licks" trend, inaugurated in September, first challenged students to vandalize school property. Now in October, the new challenge is to "smack a staff member," according to a list being circulated online.
While both challenges encourage criminal behavior, participation in this month's mischief may result in more palpable repercussions.
"I think I would definitely have to take a moment and pause," James Sattiewhite, a Houston, Texas school administrator, said when asked how he would react if a student hit him, according to KRIV-TV.
He added that his school is taking proactive steps to prevent the attacks: "We've sent out correspondence to parents. This is a really dangerous challenge. Talk to kids, search their social media accounts because now we're getting into the place where students can be expelled. That's assault."
'Slap a teacher' challenge could result in unexpected consequences www.youtube.com
The news outlet noted that teachers under duress due to COVID-19 complications have been issuing warnings to students.
"Instructors, many stressed out and under pressure, are posting on social media saying participating students may get an unexpected slapback, or worse," KRIV reported.
One post reportedly read: "Public announcement to students stupid enough to try the #slapateacherchallenge, there will be extra hands-on learning for the month of October! and that's on 'Don't Try Me.'"
Sattiewhite's school district is far from the only one concerned about the trend.
"This is a flat-out, calculated plan to commit a crime on a person, and that's not okay," Anna Fusco, a teachers' union president in Broward County, Florida, told USA Today.
She said she has worked in education for nearly 30 years and this is the first time she can recall a deliberate attempt to incite violence against teachers.
"Everybody that I spoke to ... has just been extremely flabbergasted that it's gotten to this level," Fusco noted. "Our teachers do not sign up to go into work and have to look over their shoulder or be worried that they might get hit, slapped, kicked, punched in the head, face, back, or any part of their body."
Criminal defense attorneys have cautioned that participating students ages 17 and up could face punishment as adults, resulting in prison time, fines, and a permanent mark on their criminal record.
"That automatically makes it a third-degree felony, so you're looking to up to 10 years in prison or up to 10 years on probation and up to a $10,000 fine. Plus, it can leave a permanent stain on your record, even if you take a deferred or something, you're not going to be able to get it non-disclosed later," one attorney told KRIV.
Additionally, students who decide to smack a teacher in more private areas — like the butt, for example — could be hit with sexual assault charges.
TikTok 'smack-a-teacher' challenge www.youtube.com
TikTok has said that it is taking steps to discourage participation in the challenge, such as by removing posts with the hashtag #deviouslicks and redirecting hashtags and search results to its Community Guidelines webpage.