Be advised of a troubling social media trend

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Grade Level
Middle School
High School
County School

Dear SFUSD Families:

Normally I don’t like to bring attention to negative trends on social media platforms but, given its popularity among some youth, I want to make sure you are aware so you may have conversations with your child if you believe it may be helpful. 

The social media network TikTok has a series of monthly challenges called Devious Licks. It’s aimed at youth and challenges them to do something daring, destructive, or hurtful; record video of the act; and post it. Last month the challenge was to destroy or steal something in a school, and campuses across the country saw damage and theft. For the month of October, the challenge is “smack a staff member on the backside.” 

I want to make sure students are clear that “smacking” a school staff member is a violation of the California Education Code, District Board Policy, District Administrative Regulations, and the SFUSD code of student conduct. Committing such an act could result in discipline, including but not limited to, suspension or expulsion.

I do not enjoy giving stark warnings like this. I believe our students respect each other and school staff, and that they are above doing the kinds of things that would harm members of our school communities, undermine an individual’s sense of physical safety, or impede staff’s ability to service our school communities. However, given the number of concerns that have arisen about this, I want to make clear to everyone how seriously we will take any instance where a member of our SFUSD community is subjected to such harm.

There is nothing playful about touching someone in a way that violates their personal space. We all know that appropriately touching someone on the shoulder or shaking their hand is very different from touching or “smacking them on the backside.” 

In addition, we know that how our students convey themselves on social media makes an impact. SFUSD has robust learning programs in place to teach students digital agency -- the way students interact and represent themselves in a virtual online environment. In teaching our students digital agency, we address topics such as digital footprint (the identity you create and leave in a virtual environment), media balance, cyberbullying, communication, online privacy, and news and media literacy. I encourage you to review these resources with your child about how to be responsible digital citizens.

The safety of our students and staff is our highest priority, and we strive to create safe and supportive schools for each and every student and staff member. Please review this letter with your child and reach out to your child’s school if you have any questions.

Thank you for your understanding and support of San Francisco’s public schools.


Dr. Vincent Matthews
SFUSD Superintendent