The latest trending social media challenge is leaving a bad taste in our mouths. TikTok’s “New Teacher Challenge” has parents tricking their children with a fake picture of their “new teacher” for the upcoming school year. Some pictures show silly faces, but more insidiously (and hurtfully), a lot of pictures feature people with physical deformities or disabilities.
Many of the children scream, cry or react fearfully while their parents laugh. But teaching your children to fear people who look differently from them is not ‘funny’ or ‘cute.’ Motivational speaker and author Lizzie Velásquez, has a rare congenital condition known as Marfanoid-progeroid-lipodystrophy syndrome that prevents her from gaining weight and affects her facial structure. She took to Instagram after her picture was used in one of these videos.
“When I saw this trend start I knew it was coming,” Velásquez wrote. “Some have been cute and funny but then it starts to cross the line.” The video she shared along with her post showed a disturbing TikTok posted by a mom as part of the challenge that used Velásquez’s image. When the child was asked by the mom why they wouldn’t want Velásquez to be their teacher, they responded, “Because I don’t like her face,” as the mom can be heard laughing in the background.
“Showing your kids a photo of someone who looks different in hopes of them having a scared reaction is vile,” Velásquez wrote. “The people you put in photos or videos are human beings!! We have feelings and we have something we work on every day called self-confidence. Please PLEASE don’t teach your children that it’s funny to be afraid of someone who doesn’t look like them.”