Empty school campuses

The hallway of the Centennial building at Sonora High School.

Tuolumne County high schools have issued warnings to students over viral challenges on the social media app TikTok, which have led to acts of vandalism on campuses in September and the possibility of violence against staff in the coming month. 

"Any student engaged in these or other such 'challenges' will be subject to school discipline up to and including expulsion," stated an email from Sonora High School, which was sent out to parents and staff. "Please take time to discuss with your children the importance of not participating in dangerous, destructive, or illegal social media challenges, and specifically the importance of treating educators with respect."

Sonora Union High School District Superintendent Ed Pelfrey and Summerville Union High School District Superintendent Michael Merrill could not be reached for additional information on Friday.

Merrill said in a minute-long recorded phone message that the "disturbing trend" had made its way to Summerville High School, and school stakeholders were previously notified of the incidents during weekly updates.

"Summerville experienced some of that vandalism, and students were held accountable for that criminal activity," he said in the phone message.

Multiple media sources have reported on the TikTok trend challenging students to various acts of vandalism, violence, theft and assault. 

September was apparently dedicated to vandalism of school bathrooms, while in October students were instructed by the challenge to slap a staff member.

One website, HITC, noted the next monthly challenges to be kiss your friend’s girlfriend at school in November, revealing genitals in December, jabbing a breast in January, messing up school signs in February, making a mess in the courtyard or cafeteria in March, "grab some eggz" (a stealing challenge) in April, ditch day in May, flipping off the front office in June, and spraying a neighbors fence in July. 

The trend apparently began as a result of a challenge called "devious lick," where students were encouraged to steal or vandalize school property. 

"This type of criminal activity will be taken very seriously and will result in charges being filed as well as suspension and or expulsion," Merrill said in the message. "Summerville is our home, and these people are our family. It is sad to say, but are reminded of treating people with respect and kindness is not just words but something we must strive to live by."

Merrill further recommended that parents and guardians have a conversation with students about the topic.

Sonora High School also acknowledged "incidents of vandalism in restrooms" during September.

"The district has been made aware that an October TikTok challenge urges students to film and post videos on the platform of a student slapping a teacher," the announcement continued. "Striking a teacher or any staff member is a criminal offense and can bring felony charges." 

Sonora High School recommended parents monitor their children's social media activities and also provided links on how to address challenges over social media.

"Sonora Union High School District has no higher priority than the safety and well-being of students and staff. We want to make you aware of two situations that threaten to compromise the health and welfare of students and staff," the announcement said. 

Sonora High School also warned students about an unsanctioned dance hosted by a private group who titled the event a "homecoming dance."

"This dance is in no way associated with Sonora High School," the announcement said. "Sonora High School was not involved in the planning, structure or organization of this event. This is not a school sponsored event."

Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at gricapito@uniondemocrat.net or (209) 588-4526.