HANSON, Mass. — From viral challenge to criminal charges, two students in Hanson are facing the consequences of damaging school property and endangering others.
Hanson Police have charged two students from Whitman-Hanson Regional High School students after they replicated the viral social media challenge that burned several electrical outlets in the school last week.
On Jan. 23, police were called to the school after reports that two students had caused damage to multiple outlets. School officials had noticed some electrical outlets across the building seemed to have short-circuited, and later concluded the damage was a result of the viral TikTok “outlet challenge” that has been making its rounds through social media.
“It’s a pretty dumb idea to do it, you know it’s not the smartest thing,” said Chris Munstis, a father.
The challenge consists of partially inserting the brick portion of a phone charger into a wall outlet and then sliding down a penny onto the brick’s exposed metal prongs to create a spark. More often than not, doing so results in a much larger spark than expected, which could cause electrical system damage and, in some cases, a fire.
In total, eight outlets had been damaged throughout the school.
School officials identified the students that caused damage to some, if not all, the outlets. Their names are not being released as they are minors but officials said they are male and 15 and 16 years old.
“The school was aware that it was going around and other schools were doing it, so it’s kinda sad that even still something happened here that kids didn’t listen or they didn’t heed the warnings,” said Kristy Gillis, a mother. “We had talked about it at home, you know, my kids had told me about it and my thing was like, you just better never ever do it.”
Both students are being charged with attempting to burn a public building and malicious destruction of property.
No injuries were reported.
Similar incidents have happened across the state as more and more users attempt to recreate the challenge to post on their social media accounts.
“I know they’re trying to prove a point and make sure it doesn’t continue to happen, so that aside I’d say it’s a good idea but, criminal charges might be a little pushing it,” said Munstis.
While some parents believe filing criminal charges against the teens is a bit too extreme, others hope this will set an example to stop this trend from spreading.
“It’s something that’s really unsafe and it’s out there and people know it’s unsafe and they know the potential danger of it, and for them to do it anyways and put their classmates in danger, I think it’s appropriate, I think the police need to do what they need to do,” said Gillis.
"This is not just a harmless prank that kids are doing," Chief Miksch said. "Causing an outlet to short circuit this way can cause serious injury and could potentially start a fire. Not to mention the damage it can do to a building's electrical system, along with hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of damage. We are taking this issue seriously and anyone identified doing this will be charged criminally."
The following electrical fire safety tips are from the U.S. Fire Administration:
• Insert plugs fully into sockets.
• If you have young children, install tamper-resistant electrical outlets.
• Replace wall outlets if plugs do not fit tightly.
• Do not overload outlets.
• Never force a three-pronged plug into a two-slot outlet.
In addition to electrical fire safety, Chief Miksch and Superintendent Szymaniak would like to remind parents and children to discuss the dangers of certain online challenges and trends and recognizing dangerous activity they may be seeing on the internet.
“We urge parents to talk to their children about this serious issue and the dangers that can occur to themselves and others by doing this,” Superintendent Szymaniak said. “Thankfully no one was hurt and no major damage was done. Although, we did have power outages with some of our SMART boards and classroom lights and had to replace the damaged outlets.”
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