BRADLEY — Local parents are being warned about content on the short-video social media app TikTok, which has been influencing children to vandalize school property and perform inappropriate acts in school.
Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School sent a letter to parents Oct. 13 warning them of the trend. Bradley Central Middle School followed suit and shared the same letter with parents Friday.
There have been at least a couple minor incidents of bathroom vandalism at BBCHS, while Bradley Central has seen bathrooms vandalized once or twice per week, according to school officials.
Incidents at the middle school have included students ripping out toilet seats and soap dispensers, stuffing rolls of toilet paper down the toilet, removing soap bags from soap dispensers, and vandalizing bathroom walls.
Both schools warn that the actions being encouraged are “inappropriate and in some cases illegal.”
“They will not be tolerated within our building and will be followed with the appropriate consequence which may include legal action,” the letter states.
The letter lists monthly challenges that have been circulating on the app.
These include vandalize school restrooms, smack a staff member on the backside, kiss your friend’s girlfriend at school, expose your private area in school halls, jab a breast, mess up school signs, make a mess in the courtyard or cafeteria, grab some “eggz” (theft/ stealing), ditch day, flip off the front office, and spray a neighbor’s fence.
School officials say their goal is to open a transparent conversation and bring awareness to the situation.
“We encourage you to take this opportunity to speak to your student(s) about the appropriate and respectful use of social media and cell phones,” the letter states. “Being socially responsible, kind, and mindful on these platforms is becoming increasingly important.”
Bradley Central Principal Mark Kohl said he has never in his 11 years as principal seen bathroom vandalism to this extent.
He noted that the school has not had issues with attempts at other challenges on the list, but students have informed the administration about the monthly themes being shared on the app.
Just this week, the school had to shut down two of its bathrooms due to vandalism.
“It’s frustrating for sure as a building principal to deal with this,” Kohl said.
Fortunately, students have been good about reporting incidents when they see them occur, he said.
The school has been asking teachers to monitor bathrooms and keep track of when students leave to use the bathroom so there is a record when an incident occurs. Hallway security footage also gets reviewed.
Bathroom doors are being left open during passing periods, and some bathrooms are staying closed, neither of which the school has ever had to do before.
Kohl said that since sending the letter to parents last week, he has gotten emails from multiple parents thanking the school for informing them of what was going on.
“A lot of them aren’t even aware of the situation because their child is doing what’s right in school,” he said. “But parents are aware now. They can have conversations with their kids.”
Kohl said he brought all 160 eighth-graders down to the auditorium for a talk about responsibility and doing the right thing at school.
The school has also used the concept of “restorative justice” in some instances when students were caught in the act.
The students’ parents were consulted and agreed that the students would have to clean the bathrooms they messed up instead of the traditional detention or in-school suspension as punishment.
“A lot of our students, they are starving for attention at this age. They really want that attention, whether it’s negative or positive attention,” Kohl said. “That negative peer pressure is real and it happens in all facets of middle school. … I think we have a pretty good grasp on it now, we just need to continue to educate our kids on doing what’s right.”