Catholic school board serving Mississauga, Brampton says students punished for TikTok ‘pranks’

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Published October 8, 2021 at 4:35 pm

A number of students at Peel’s Catholic school board have been disciplined for taking part in social media pranks that encouraged them to “smack a staff member” and vandalize school washrooms. 

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board won’t say how many students participated in the so-called pranks promoted through the popular TikTok app, or what punishment was handed out or how many incidents took place at what schools.  

Furthermore, no details of specific incidents are being released and it’s not known if any of the disciplinary action taken involved school suspensions, or more severe penalties. 

Board spokesperson Bruce Campbell would only say that “incidents resulted in consequences for those involved” and that “…thankfully, such incidents have not been widespread and have been vandalism-related.”  

Campbell added he’s not aware of any additional incidents beyond those the Board knew about when education director Marianne Mazzorato posted a letter to parents this past Monday night on Twitter. 

In a subsequent statement from the Board, which houses 31,500 high school students and 45,000 elementary school pupils in Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon, officials said, in part: 

“The TikTok challenge is not specific to” the Dufferin-Peel Board, “and has been an issue for schools across North America in recent weeks. Negative behaviours related to the challenge have occurred in our schools and while consequences (have followed) in alignment with our Catholic Code of Conduct, we would not disclose the specific consequences nor specific numbers of cases that have been linked to this challenge.” 

The statement concludes, saying, “…the purpose of the letter (to parents) was to…make parents/guardians aware of the issue and provide them with an opportunity to have a conversation with their children about the importance of making good choices.” 

In the letter, Mazzorato said the Board was aware of a “series of monthly challenges” promoted via TikTok. 

Several involve pranks and acts that the Board views as a violation of its code of conduct. Those include a challenge to “Smack A Staff Member” and another to vandalize school washrooms, and share it on the site. 

“Regrettably, some students have participated in accepting these challenges and are facing the consequences of their actions,” Mazzorato said in the letter. 

TikTok is a heavily video-based social network owned by ByteDance, a Chinese tech firm headquartered in the Cayman Islands. It hosts short videos that are between 15 seconds and three minutes in duration. 

It has more than one billion users worldwide, roughly five times as many as Twitter. Much of that edge comes from having a much bigger capture of the youth culture among teenagers and adults under age 35. 

–With files from Nathan Sager 

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