“Hit for teacher” (TikTok challenge)

When my oldest children were toddlers and preschoolers, moral panics which targeted parents such as myself focused on the likes of satanic kidnappers and human traffickers. While there are rare instances of children being snatched by strangers, there are no recorded cases of it being done to funnel the victims to a diabolical den. And while human trafficking is real, it is usually done by someone who knows the family and grooms the child. It if not committed by someone camping out in a Wal-Mart restroom or scouring social media pages to find when school releases for the day so they can have a victim smorgasbord to choose from.

My children are now old enough that the moral panics are focused on them as the potential perpetrator, not the targeted. In an article for Vice, David Gilbert outlined a recent example, which holds that tween and teen TikTok consumers are being urged to slap their teacher and upload the videotaped results. Like the Luciferian lurkers, these pedagogue poundings are the stuff of urban legend.

For decades, these legends have been spread by school districts, law enforcement agencies, and local media doing shallow reporting. This trio seems to again be the panicky purveyors this time.

Gilbert cited California Teachers Association President Toby Boyd, who warned of this threat and the legal peril those who partake in it will find themselves in. Meanwhile, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong called for TikTok executives to outline what steps they are taking to halt this unruly usurpation of their platform.

This is not to say that no student has assaulted a teacher anywhere at all during this school year. But if this happened, it was likely the result of anger, immaturity, or loss of control, not a premeditated assault in hopes of gaining social media followers.

Gilbert interviewed Abbie Richards, whom he described as “a disinformation researcher who focuses on TikTok.” She said, “As far as I’m aware, not a single story has actually included evidence of an initial threat. And when I looked into this, I couldn’t find a single TikTok actually endorsing this behavior. All evidence indicates this is a hoax turned into reality by local news and school districts reacting to completely unconfirmed rumors.”

For example, the CTA highlighted an instance in Lancaster, S.C., where a TikTok teacher assault allegedly happened. The school district’s director of transport and safety, Bryan Vaughn, claimed an elementary school student perpetrated this as part of the TikTok challenge.

However, Gilbert noted some inconsistencies with this assertion. First, elementary school students are usually too young to have a TikTok account. Second, there was no mention that the assault was recorded and uploaded to TikTok, which is a necessary element of the alleged phenomenon. In other words, there may have been a student assault on a teacher, but it was unrelated to this putative challenge.

While urban legend origins are usually lost to time and space, the starting point may be known in this case: An online document which lists supposed monthly TikTok challenges. However, there is zero evidence this list exists outside of the document decrying it, and there is no reason to suspect it has ever been acted upon.

Indeed, there is a dearth of reports confirming tween and teen arrests for teacher assaults. Like most moral panics panics, no name is ever associated with these alleged occurrences. There are just breathless warnings about the happenings and the stiff consequences for those who perform them. Gilbert noted there are no videos showing students striking teachers, and even if there were, that would be insufficient evidence of a social media connection.

So this is just another hoax. Besides, if satanic kidnappings and human trafficking had been as widespread as advertised, there would be no teenagers left to take up this challenge.

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