HOUSTON - A TikTok challenge is escalating into dangerous territory that can result in a criminal record for students.
The "Devious licks" challenge has triggered destruction in schools across the country. Now it's poised to destroy students' records.
The October mission for the viral trend is to slap a teacher.
"I think I would definitely have to take a moment and pause," says James Sattiewhite when asked what his reaction would be to getting targeted by a devious lick.
The educator is a Houston-area administrator who has taught for fifteen years and says his school is working to prevent the attacks.
"We’ve sent out correspondence to parents. This is a really dangerous challenge. Talk to kids. Search their social media accounts because now we're getting into the place where students can be expelled. That's assault," he says.
Some challenge posts specify to smack a teacher on the backside which in some cases could be classified as sexual assault.
Instructors, many of whom are stressed out and under pressure, are posting on social media saying participating students may get an unexpected slapback or worse.
Criminal defense lawyer Charles Adams of Big Angry Law adds that students ages 17 and up are treated as adults and can also face serious assault charges even if they catch a teacher off-campus.
"That automatically makes it a third-degree felony, so you're looking to up to 10 years in prison or up to 10 years on probation and up to a $10,000 fine. Plus, it can leave a permanent stain on your record, even if you take a deferred or something, you're not going to be able to get it non-disclosed later," says Adams.
Younger students can be certified as adults if they cause serious injury and also face major consequences.
"You can still look at actually going to a facility and being incarcerated as a kid for assaulting a teacher," explains Adams. "It's a horrible idea. I hope it doesn't take hold in Texas. If [it does], I think you're going to see some students putting themselves in a position that could ruin the rest of their lives."
TikTok has banned devious licks content but that hasn't stopped some attempts at going viral. Sattiewhite is encouraging teachers to report misconduct instead of going ‘lick for lick.'
"At the end of the day, we’re the adults in the building," he says. "We have to govern ourselves accordingly. We don't want any teacher or any faculty member to put themselves in a place where they are assaulting children."
Parents are recommended to be upfront with their students about the consequences of the challenge, so they'll reconsider risking their record over a "lick" for a few likes.