VIDEO: Teen speaks out against viral video that left her injured
A high school freshman in Beaverton is on a mission to warn others about a viral social media prank that left her with a concussion.
Mountainside High School freshman Olivia Ross, 14, said she was asked by two senior students to participate in a TikTok video clip at school three weeks ago. The popular video sharing platform allows users to upload short video clips from cell phones.
Ross agreed, and was told she and two other students were going to jump in the air at the same time.
"They said 'can you jump for our TikTok video?' and I said yes," Ross said. "When I jumped, they kicked my legs."
The video shows Ross's legs being swept as she jumps in the air, causing her to fall backward to the ground, slamming the back of her head onto the floor.
"My head immediately started to throb," Ross recalled.
The incident left Ross, who is diabetic, with a mild concussion and a surge in her blood sugar.
The social-media inspired "skull breaker challenge" video trend has grown popular among teens, who may not realize the danger or severity of the injury it causes.
"From around the U.S., other parents sent us videos like this, where kids got broken tailbones, one kid got his face cut up and got a severe concussion ... another kid supposedly died from this," recalled Lindsay Zobrist, Ross's mother. "We decided, could we put an end to this and let parents know it's going on?"
Now, her family is determined to make other parents and students aware of the dangers of the prank-style viral video.
"We decided, let's take the focus off the other kids and put the focus on Olivia, and how she could make positive change around this," Zobrist said.
Together with her parents, Ross recorded her own TikTok video to serve as a public service announcement about the dangers of the viral prank videos she fell victim to, and to inspire kindness over bullying.
They also launched Teaching Kindness Matters, a website to fight bullying.
"She said, 'Mom, these kids did a prank,'" Zobrist said. "And then I saw the video and I was like, that was more than just a prank."
'I need to be the voice for other kids'
Zobrist said she's disappointed in the two students who asked Olivia to participate, noting they were both senior mentors in Ross' AVID class, which focuses on leadership and college readiness.
She suspects peer pressure was at hand. "When they asked her if they could post it, she didn't say no because she didn't want to be the butt of the joke," Zobrist said.
The incident happened on school grounds while a substitute teacher was filling in for the day, Ross said.
Mountainside High School principals were not available for an interview, but the Beaverton School District issued a statement, indicating some level of discipline was enacted following Ross's injury.
"A few weeks ago at Mountainside High School, some students engaged in an unsafe TicTok prank and a student was hurt. There has been continuing social media regarding this issue that is disruptive to the educational process and insensitive.
"We responded by investigating the incident and reported it to the district's Risk Management Dept. Further, we worked with all the students who were involved in this incident, and for some of the students, there were school disciplinary consequences for these actions.
"We take student safety very seriously and will intervene once we become aware of an issue. We have ongoing Advisory period lessons regarding the responsible and appropriate use of digital devices, including social media. It is not in keeping with our values at Mountainside to hurt people using social media posts.
"We have asked our parents and community to help reinforce respectful use of social media and to discourage any actions that compromise the safety of our students."
BSD declined to provide further details, citing student privacy laws.
The district utilizes four levels of disciplinary processes, ranging from classroom and school-based interventions, to suspension, referral and expulsion, according to the district's student and family handbook. The handbook also includes policies related to harassment, bullying, electronic devices and social media.
Ross said the other two teens apologized to her the next day.
"I think they feel bad about what happened, but I don't think they feel bad about what they did," she said. "I don't think they think the prank in and of itself was bad."
To add insult to injury, Ross said she's been the target of hurtful comments and memes about the incident since making the PSA video. She's determined to speak out against bullying, especially when it leads to physical harm.
"I think it's important that other kids don't get hurt and I need to be the voice for other kids who don't feel they can use their voice," Ross said.
By Courtney Vaughn
Follow Courtney at @C_Vaughn
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