TikTok challenges have Montgomery County schools on high alert

6P Seena_ TikTok School Challenges PKG.transfer_frame_2534.jpeg
Posted at 5:12 PM, Oct 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-04 19:31:00-04

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — TikTok challenges encouraging theft and vandalism are happening at all 14 traditional middle and high schools in the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System.

Spokesperson Anthony Johnson says there have been over 100 incidences of vandalism and theft in the last few weeks that have been linked to social media challenges.

Hundreds of soap dispensers, paper towel dispensers and toilet paper holders have been ripped off walls. Items have been glued to toilet seats and food and other items have been smeared on toilets and stalls. Toilet paper and paper towels have been shoved down toilets to flood bathrooms.

In one school, a urinal was ripped off the wall, causing over $6,000 in just clean-up. Johnson said the personal belongings of teachers have been stolen.

With what has been reported, Johnson has totaled up an estimated $20,000 in damages, not including what it will cost to fix everything.

"These actions come with serious consequences," Johnson said. "Dozens of students have received consequences, parents are left paying fines and restitution and we, of course, have student code of conduct."

The district has recently been made aware of other planned challenges like the "Smack a teacher" challenge, which promotes assaulting employees.

"That's not about getting likes and clicks," Johnson said. "It's about serious criminal offenses."

The Montgomery County sheriff said along with students facing expulsion or expensive fines, these incidents can lead to a felony offense.

The school district posted the following statement on its website about the recent behavior:

Good evening, CMCSS families,

Across the nation, schools are observing an increase in concerning student behaviors that are linked to social media, especially the app TikTok. As many CMCSS schools communicated with families a few weeks ago, an increase in vandalism and theft in schools and on buses was linked to a TikTok challenge. Recently, the District has been made aware of other planned challenges that promote crimes such as assaulting employees, sexual assault, and public nudity.

“These social media challenges may appear to be harmless or fun to an adolescent, but what parents need to clearly understand is that these thoughtless actions will come with serious consequences,” stated Montgomery County Sheriff John Fuson. “I have heard some say ‘what is the big deal, it’s just a soap dispenser’ or ‘I was just messing around.’ The reality is, the damages left behind to school property and the invasion or violation of another student or staff member’s person can easily lead to thousands in fines and restitution for parents to pay and a felony offense for their child. I encourage parents to pay close attention to what their children are doing and intervene where it is needed. We plan to take the most appropriate action necessary to help resolve this issue and get their attention.”

In addition to concerns about TikTok challenges, there are other digital dangers like cyberbullying, child exploitation, sharing personal information, and offensive content.

“Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is the leading federal law enforcement agency that investigates crimes involving exploitation of minors,” said Nashville HSI Special Agent in Charge Jerry C. Templet Jr. “Our agents continually work with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes and identify and rescue victims. While the internet is a great way to interact with friends and family, as well as meet new people, predators know this and actively stalk online meeting places such as chat rooms and social media sites. Education and community awareness regarding the dangers of online activity is extremely important.”

Finally, when a threat of violence is brought to our attention, we take it seriously and move forward to take the necessary action. Law enforcement and school officials work together to investigate. We will be vigilant in finding individuals responsible, and, as Sheriff Fuson has stated, “any and everybody involved will be charged and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

School Resource Officers and CMCSS employees work diligently to keep our schools safe, but it takes the entire community working together to provide a secure educational environment. We are asking parents and guardians to please talk to their children about online safety, appropriate behaviors, and consequences for criminal behaviors and offenses in the Student Code of Conduct.

Additionally, please talk to your children about the importance of immediately reporting any safety concern to an adult. Whether it is on social media or in the schoolhouse, if you see or hear something, say something. Please report concerns of school violence to officials, do not post or repost rumors or threats on social media.

Thank you for your support.