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S.C. teacher advocacy group expresses concerns about violent ‘Slap a Teacher’ TikTok challenge

Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 7:51 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - A new, viral TikTok challenge has some school leaders worried because it encourages students to slap a teacher and post it online.

Last week, a South Carolina elementary student was reported to have hit their teacher, following the “Slap a Teacher” challenge.

South Carolina Education Association President Sherry East said this has many teachers and staff members a bit on edge that incidents like this could happen again.

“Now you’ve got students who feel they can disrespect you so much they can put their hands on you and that is never acceptable behavior,” East said.

East added that teachers and staff members have been dealing with so much inside the classrooms due to the pandemic. She said these types of viral challenges only add more stressful layers to many teachers in the learning environment.

“What it’s really causing teachers to do is second guess their profession,” East said.

Horry County parent Laura Inkpen is disturbed to learn about the ‘Slap a Teacher’ challenge.

“I’d report my own kid if I saw them do it,” Inkpen said. “These teachers put so much money out of their pocket and they shouldn’t be afraid to go to work.”

Inkpen said it’s important for kids to hear from parents and school leaders that there will be consequences for those behaviors.

Some wonder why children are even taking part and posting these acts online.

Experts told WMBF News, as a whole, some kids may see this app as a way to instant fame and success without putting that same focus on the consequences of their actions.

Sarah Laiola, an assistant professor of digital culture and design at Coastal Carolina University, said what makes TikTok a bit riskier than other social media platforms is the appeal of its reach.

Laiola said TikTok isn’t centered on making human-to-human connections with friends and family members in your community. Instead, she said it’s centered around the theory that you might go viral and become famous.

“I think TikTok kind of dialed it up to 11 and really ups the ante for what you could potentially achieve,” Laiola said. “I think in that sense, it introduces the desire to participate. I think it’s higher stakes so it makes it more appealing, like so many people can see it, actual celebrities could see it. I think that makes it more enticing and therefore more concerning and potentially dangerous.”

Adam Pitluk, an assistant professor of Journalism at CCU, said in one of his classes, students discussed the pros and cons of having social media platforms like TikTok.

“I asked them in particular about TikTok challenges, are there benefits to it?” Pitluk said. “One student brought up what I think is a valid point. If you’re recreating a dance and it’s social and you’re with your friends and it’s good taste, it does have a positive, friendly connotation to it. But at the same time, if you’re using it to try to do something like the ‘Slap a Teacher’ challenge, its clearly going to have a lasting impact not just on disciplinary measures that you’re going to bring upon your self-action but also on your future if this thing exists on the web in perpetuity.”

School leaders said there are consequences for any criminal and life-changing events.

A spokesperson for Horry County Schools said as of now, they have not seen incidents connected to this challenge. But they made it crystal clear, if any student does participate, they will be disciplined, which could mean student suspension and expulsion.

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