‘Zero tolerance’ for ‘slap a teacher’ TikTok challenge, South Florida schools say

Broward and Miami-Dade school leaders threaten serious punishments if students break the law participating in social media challenges

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – TikTok is one of the most widely used social media platforms in the world right now. The problem is, new so-called challenges going viral are encouraging young people to wreak havoc in schools.

A list of monthly challenges has been floating around the platform. You’ve seen September’s “Devious Licks” challenge, where students vandalized school bathrooms. Starting in October, a new, even more disturbing challenge is supposed to start.

“Starting tomorrow, Oct. 1, they’ve got a TikTok challenge where they want you to slap or punch a teacher,” said Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union.

It has the school districts in Broward and Miami-Dade putting out stern warnings to students and parents.

“Not only are these challenges disturbing but they’re asking for our youths to participate in criminal or possible life-changing events,” Broward Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright said.

Fusco said some students have purposefully flooded bathrooms with water and feces, destroyed emergency and exit signage, and have even stolen items from teachers — all in the name of these challenges.

And this next one, she says, goes way too far.

“Whether you’re the person that’s going to throw the punch or the slap or the grab, or you are videoing it, we are saying to press charges on every spectrum, whether you’re an accomplice or the actual person committing the crime,” Fusco said. “It is not acceptable that they think it’s funny or cute or it’s a challenge to go out and destroy and now to hurt.”

Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho echoed that sentiment, saying his district has “zero tolerance” for the behavior suggested in the new challenge.

“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,” he said.

School districts are telling parents to speak with their children and remind them that just because something might seem like a funny, harmless prank, criminal charges stemming from these challenges, could stick with them for a long time.

Students Local 10 News spoke to had mixed reactions about the vandalism but all said assaulting a teacher goes way too far.

“That’s going way too far, because if a staff member puts their hands on them, then it’s going to be a problem when their parents come out they’re like, ‘Your child put their hands on an adult,’” said Michele McCarthy, a senior at Hallandale Beach High. “Teach your child, don’t put your hands on an adult.”

Broward’s school district released the following 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.”

Cartwright also posted a video announcement that you can watch here.

About the Author:

Ian Margol joined the Local 10 News team in July 2016 as a general assignment reporter. Born in Miami Beach and raised in Broward County, Ian is thrilled to be back home in South Florida.