Students stealing school property for TikTok challenge will face charges, officials say

The "Bathroom Challenge" circulating on the social media site encourages students to steal or destroy school property.

6abc Digital Staff Image
Wednesday, September 15, 2021
Students stealing property for TikTok challenge will face charges
A disturbing new national trend on the social media app TikTok has found it's way into Berks and Montgomery county schools, officials say.

BOYERTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A disturbing new trend on social media is leading to criminal charges nationwide, including schools in Montgomery and Berks counties.

Officials with the Boyertown Area School District said students are damaging school bathrooms and recording the aftermath.

Superintendent Marybeth Torchia said during a school board meeting on Monday night the vandalism is due to a TikTok challenge.

The superintendent said the "Bathroom Challenge" and "Devious Lick Challenge" circulating on the social media site encourage students to steal or destroy school property.

Torchia said some Boyertown students are stealing from bathrooms and destroying fixtures while capturing the damage on videos. The student who causes the most damage in one school day is declared the "winner."

The superintendent said criminal charges have been and will be, made against students responsible for such vandalism. Students will also be suspended from school.

A similar situation is unfolding at Hatboro-Horsham High School.

"Basically, what has happened in our building and also in our middle school is a lot of damage. Kids ripping signs off the wall, ripping soap dispensers out of bathrooms, stealing odd objects that just normally wouldn't take from a school," said Principal Dennis Williams.

Williams said the volatile nature of the trend has eroded the school community leaders have been trying to cultivate upon their return to in-person learning.

"We're done. It's time for us to start to addressing it a little bit differently," Williams added.

For starters, Williams, alongside fellow Keith Valley Middle School principal, sent letters to parents and guardians alerting them of trend and more perhaps most importantly the consequences for those caught participating.

"We're moving forward with criminal charges because it is vandalism, it is theft, restitution, and then ultimately, we have to re-evaluate whether or not students have the ability to handle some of the freedoms that we give them," he said.

Kristen Piazza who works in the district said it's a challenge navigating the new era of trends and apps, but educators are doing their best to keep up.

"If you go back a decade ago, you're not seeing social media trends or anything we're seeing now. So, I think teachers and schools are really trying to nip it in the bud early and get kids back to respecting public property and each other," Piazza said.

TikTok has banned videos that use the corresponding hashtag associated with the trend, but videos are still popping up.

School officials said fortunately they've been able to fix the damage with little trouble.

In a statement, a spokesperson for TikTok said:

"We expect our community to stay safe and create responsibly, and we do not allow content that promotes or enables criminal activities. We are removing this content and redirecting hashtags and search results to our Community Guidelines to discourage such behavior."