Hillsborough warns students about social media behavior

The Hillsborough County School District wants parents to talk with their kids about recent social media challenges.

Superintendent Addison Davis warned students this week that if they participate in destructive or violent challenges in an effort to gain likes or followers, they will face discipline and could be arrested.

In a letter sent out last night, district officials warn that students can be impressionable and may be influenced into joining negative behaviors and dangerous acts online.

They say students who photograph, record, and post risky behavior online could further fuel bad behavior.

The district will also work to enforce stricter consequences.

Davis and Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister both released PSA's Wednesday urging families to discuss with students the dangers of taking part in Tik Tok challenges known as "devious licks."

"They are starting to take a toll on our facilities and toll on our students," Davis said. "I just want to be very clear in the front stage of this that we will take swift and immediate action if these types of challenges are going to be interacted with our students. Our students are here to be able to have a disruption-free environment."

Last month, many students were influenced to vandalize school bathrooms, including ripping out toilets and soap dispensers. According to a Hillsborough Schools spokesperson, during the first two weeks of the challenge, the district had more than 20 cases.

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In October, the trend is called "slap a staff member." The district warned employees to be on the lookout for this type of behavior and there haven't been any issues so far.

"We have to reclaim the dinner table and have conversations every evening about, not only what's going on instructionally, but what's going on in our students' lives and how social media is [having] an impact with our students," Davis said.

Hillsborough district leaders are concerned about more so-called "devious licks" challenges planned in the coming months, including "mess up school signs" and "flip off the front office." Other scheduled challenges include behavior that could be classified as sexual assault.

"It may all seem like a silly Tik Tok challenge, but trust me it'll have very real consequences," Sheriff Chronister said in his PSA.

Three Polk County students were arrested last month after vandalizing school bathrooms.

Meanwhile, a Florida state senator on Wednesday proposed requiring public schools to teach about social media literacy. Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, filed the bill (SB 480) for consideration during the 2022 legislative session, which will start in January. 

If approved, it would be added to part of state law that requires instruction on a variety of other topics, including the elements of civil government, the history of the United States and the history of the Holocaust.

Information from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.