PHILADELPHIA - Officials from local schools have begun issuing warnings as dangerous social media challenges emerge and impact the school year.
TikTok challenges taking place in schools has officials on alert and now taking action.
Students all over the nation have been participating in challenges such as the devious licks challenge or the bathroom challenge. It includes everything from filling soap dispensers with urine to vandalizing school property. FOX 29 has been covering this recently and reported that there was 13 such incidents at a single local school.
Now, a new challenge the "slap a teacher" challenge has officials speaking out. When TikTok stopped posting these challenges, those participating turned to Facebook and Instagram to continue sharing their videos.
Dr. Dan McGarry, Upper Darby Superintendent, and Dr. Renato Lajara, Principal of the Cheltenham High School, joined Good Day Philadelphia to discuss how social media challenges have been impacting their schools.
Principal Lajara says they have seen a few variations of these challenges, but have also had fire alarms pulled as well as threatening messages written in school bathrooms. "All to rise the anxiety of our students and our staff and our community," Principal Lajara told FOX 29's Alex Holley.
Dr. McGarry said that social media has made its way into schools, which has prompted a rough start to the school year. He said a fire was started in the bathroom as well as altercations between students and parents as well.
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While Principal Lajara doesn't believe students are ignorant of the consequences, he does believe that social media is taking them by storm. He acknowledged that the pandemic has made it difficult for students and that they're in the process of re-teaching appropriate behaviors for school.
"As far as Portland, Oregon, and I mentioned TikTok in a group full of Superintendents and administrators and it was like a unified groan," Principal Lajara explained. He said that there is a collective frustration with social media.
However, he is optimistic that things will begin to look a lot different beginning this week as they begin to communicate more with students and families about expectations. Principal Lajara emphasized that these issues aren't unique to the area but are happening everywhere.
For Dr. McGarry explained that with close to 4,000 students in the school, they will begin running assemblies on the perils of social media which will teach what happens online and the potential consequences of being active online.
"We're going to continue to try to educate our students and our parents on our conduct. It's just not students. I want to emphasize that we have to do better as adults – we have to model these behaviors outside of our schools and inside of our schools," Dr. McGarry said.
Zero tolerance policies have been constituted by many of these schools, but they have begun reasserting that these behaviors have no place in the school.
As far as consequences, both educators explained there are various forms of discipline. However, depending on the degree of the action there is a variation of what measure is taken to correct the behavior.
Educators say they are taken to social media to get ahead of these challenges and in order to stay ahead of these challenges.
They're making efforts to be on the defensive rather than being reactionary to these challenges.