- Schools, police, and parents are warning against an alleged “slap a teacher” TikTok challenge.
- TikTok told Insider that it hasn’t found content related to the challenge on its platform.
- This follows a popular TikTok challenge where students posted about stealing school equipment.
Schools and police throughout the US are cautioning against an alleged October “slap a teacher” TikTok challenge.
But the platform says it hasn’t found such content and that “most people appear to be learning about the offline dare from sources other than TikTok.”
Warnings of the alleged “slap a teacher” challenge appear to have begun circulating on other social media platforms, notably Facebook, in mid-to-late September, typically as part of a list of hypothetical TikTok challenges associated with months of the upcoming year.
That list circulated in the wake of the “devious licks” challenge (“licks” referencing thefts), which took off on the platform in September. Students posted claims that they had stolen equipment from their schools before TikTok began to redirect and block searches and hashtags related to the trend.
While the “devious licks” challenge that circulated on TikTok was very real, it doesn’t appear that the alleged “slap a teacher” challenge is circulating widely on TikTok.
It’s unclear exactly where the list warning of potential challenges originated. Idaho-based School Resource Officer Dave Gomez, who runs a Facebook page with 33,000 followers where he disseminates information about schools and digital safety, posted a version of it on September 22. Gomez told Insider that he had seen the list circulating in a private Facebook group with 3,100 members for people working in drug and alcohol enforcement and education before he reposted it. He also said he heard reports of incidents tied to the challenge.
From that point on, versions of the list — which claims that October’s TikTok trend would be to “slap a teacher” or in some interactions “smack a staff member” — began to circulate on Facebook, disseminated by police departments, local news outlets, and pages affiliated with schools.
Forbes reported on Monday that Connecticut Attorney General William Tong called for TikTok leadership to meet with Connecticut-based educators and parents regarding “dangerous content” on the platform concerning students, specifically in reference to the “devious licks” trend and alleged “slap a teacher” challenge.
When reached for comment, the Connecticut Attorney General’s office referenced an October 1 Hartford Courant story about New Britain High School, which said it suffered damages as a result of the “devious licks” trend, cautioning against the “slap a teacher” challenge. The Courant reported that the school, as of October 1, had not reported any incidents of the challenge.
The story also references a now-unavailable TikTok video that reportedly showed someone saying “Is this that one teacher you want to slap?” before hitting the back of someone’s head and running away. Per the Courant, the timing and location of the incident, its relation to the challenge, and whether or not the person slapped was a teacher were all unclear.
An October 1 post on the Lancaster County School District Safety & Transportation Facebook page claimed that an incident in which an elementary student reportedly struck a teacher was tied to the challenge. Charlotte-based news outlet WSOC reported that, per school officials, the student was facing expulsion, and that officials were still investigating whether or not footage from the incident was posted to TikTok.
A representative listed on the South Carolina district’s Facebook page did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for further comment.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
TikTok said people are learning about the alleged challenge from ‘other sources’
Insider was unable to find evidence of the “slap a teacher” challenge trending or widely circulating on TikTok. A spokesperson for the company said people seem to be learning about it elsewhere.
“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,” a TikTok spokesperson told Insider in a statement.
In a tweet from TikTok’s communications team account on Wednesday afternoon, the company reiterated that “this is not a trend on TikTok.”
—TikTokComms (@TikTokComms) October 6, 2021
TikTok has redirected related searches, including “slap a teacher” and “slapateacher.” Attempting to search for any of them will lead to a landing page saying that phrase “may be associated with behavior or content that violates our guidelines.”
Videos related to the challenge still active on TikTok appear to be mostly from teachers warning against the challenge, rather than students participating, Insider found.
Comments on some such videos show doubt that the trend was truly circulating.
“Literally no one is doing that,” one comment on a video spoofing on the alleged trend from @teachersdontunderstand reads.
“I think this is something a bunch of old teachers started on Facebook,” another comment on the same video reads. “Cause NOONE is doing this.”
The TikTok spokesperson said the company was aware “offline teen dares being suggested as future ‘TikTok challenges,'” and said that illegal or dangerous challenges and behavior were not allowed on its platform and would be removed.
Social media challenges akin to the alleged “slap a teacher” challenge or the “blackout challenge,” a variation on the asphyxiation challenges that have plagued the internet for years, tend to be falsely associated with TikTok.
Recently, parents and local officials spread concern over children swallowing magnets as part of an alleged TikTok trend that the company said didn’t exist on the platform.