A Louisiana teenager could face up to five years behind bars for assaulting a teacher, an attack that authorities say could have been inspired by a TikTok challenge.
A spokesman for the Covington Police Department, Sgt. Edwin Masters, told The Washington Post that some students and teachers have suggested that the attack was inspired by the “slap a teacher” trend found on social media site TikTok.
“We’re still trying to figure out if it’s isolated or related to TikTok,” he said, noting that soap dispensers have been stolen and urinals have gone missing across St. Tammany Parish in recent weeks. Such antics reportedly have been part of a September challenge known as “devious licks.”
Jackson’s filmed actions are part of a string of similar incidents that have left teachers hurt, administrators on alert and elected officials calling for TikTok to take more accountability for the content on its site. Earlier this month, a South Carolina teacher was struck in the back of the head in the name of the challenge, according to the Lancaster County School District. A Springfield, Mo., teacher was reportedly slapped by a student this week, an assault that school leaders said was motivated by the TikTok challenge.
In a Twitter statement on Wednesday, TikTok’s communications team called the “slap a teacher challenge” a rumor and “an insult to educators everywhere.” The company said that if the challenge shows up on its site at any point, the content will be removed.
A TikTok spokesperson told The Post’s Julian Mark earlier this week that such challenges would violate the company’s policies and that “most people appear to be learning about the offline dare from sources other than TikTok.”
In the most recent video allegedly influenced by the challenge, Jackson can be seen talking to a teacher who was sitting behind her desk.
People recording the video seemed to expect that something was about to occur, making comments such as “She better [expletive] not” and “I’m a start running” as Jackson uttered inaudible words to the teacher.
Jackson’s words appeared to be emphasized with hand movements that swiftly turned into closed-fist punches. The video showed the teacher falling to the floor as Jackson continued to pummel her near her face and head as onlookers squawked in the background.
The 64-year-old teacher, who has a disability, is at home resting with some soreness and bruising following the attack, Masters said.
Jackson’s charges were escalated from a misdemeanor to a felony because the teacher was left with injuries following the assault, Masters said.
Masters said the felony carries a penalty of up to five years of incarceration with at least a year served and a fine of up to $5,000.
Jackson was released Thursday on a $25,000 bond, according to the local jail roster. No attorney information was listed.
Calls to Jackson and her parents were not immediately returned.
St. Tammany Parish Public Schools Superintendent Frank Jabbia, in a statement to The Post, called the attack and the recording of it by other students “disturbing.”
“The school system is taking the appropriate disciplinary action against all students involved,” he said. “We don’t have any evidence from our investigation that this incident is related to the TikTok challenge, but any acts of violence including participation in illegal social media trends will not be tolerated in our school system.”
Jackson’s TikTok account is mainly filled with dance challenges with family and friends, and posts of her mouthing commentary from popular audio.
The Covington Police Department said Friday afternoon that a juvenile and 18-year-old Trinity Gervais were charged with a misdemeanor of unlawful posting of criminal activity for notoriety and publicity. The juvenile has since been released on a custodial agreement, and Gervais was issued a misdemeanor summons, police said.
“The Covington Police Department wants this incident to serve as a reminder to our youth that even videoing illegal activities can land you criminal charges,” the department said in a news release.