BOYERTOWN, Pa. — New social media trends have wreaked havoc on property in the Boyertown Area School District.

During Tuesday night's school board meeting, Superintendent Marybeth Torchia reported that there was serious damage in district bathrooms because of vandalism related to violent challenges that encourage students to steal or destroy school property.

On TikTok, the "Bathroom Challenge" calls for the destruction of property, while the "Devious Licks Challenge" involves students stealing items from their schools.

"This is all captured on video by whether the students themselves or someone else recording the event," Torchia told the board. "What we are seeing in our schools right now is students damaging our bathrooms, taking soap dispensers off the walls, pouring out soap and then taking the items and placing them in their backpacks."

The student who causes the most damage in one school day is declared to be the "winner."

She said during the meeting that the vandalism and thefts are not limited to Boyertown.

"In one of our neighboring school districts, students are ripping sinks off the walls, disconnecting the plumbing and damaging hand dryers," said Torchia.

The superintendent told the board that criminal charges have been and will be made against the student perpetrators, and there's more.

"Students will be charged with the damage costs that include not only replacement of items, but the hourly rate for employees to clean up the destruction and replace any items damaged," Torchia said, "not to mention being suspended from school."

To help address the violence and vandalism, Torchia introduced a new school policy for threat assessment and slight revisions to existing policies on weapons, terroristic threats, hazing, bullying/cyberbullying, dating violence, emergency preparedness and school security personnel.

The policies will be introduced for a first reading at the next board meeting.

Board comments

During the board comments portion of the meeting, Director Ruth Dierolf said she had received accusatory emails related to politics. She said she was tired of the tirades about the school board abusing its power and that emails to the board should not be used for political activities.

In addition, Dierolf said she believed Torchia was not getting the credit she deserved for her work in leading the district during continuously shifting COVID-19 guidelines.

Childhood cancer awareness

In other actions, the district announced that September is Boyertown Area School District Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

In making the announcement the board said: "BASD will once again celebrate these mighty kids and their families throughout the month of September — because we know kids fighting cancer are mighty strong, and their stories are mighty powerful. And funds raised for childhood cancer research can make a mighty big difference."

A "Gold Out Day" will be held districtwide, at which time everyone will be asked to wear gold, the color of the international awareness symbol for childhood cancer, and participate in a variety of awareness activities.

Throughout the month, individual buildings will continue to recognize the importance of supporting the fight against cancer in children with special activities and "Casual for a Cause" events which will raise both awareness and funds.

9/11 remembrance

The school board also noted that on Nov. 13, 2018, the Boyertown Area School Board approved the resolution, "A Day to Remember," to honor those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.

The commemoration was most recently conducted in the district last Friday, Sept. 10.

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