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TikTok trend wreaks havoc | Morning Newsletter

And, this woman is at her wit’s end after cockroaches have invaded her North Philly home.

Congratulations, Inquirer readers — you made it to Friday! Hopefully, you did so without having any major breakdowns this week, except for the hours spent pondering what is life after Instagram went down. However, if you did, no worries! We don’t judge.

Today, we take a look at how TikTok is turning troublesome for some area schools, particularly the bathrooms. Then, we bring you the inspiring story of an Afghan woman who fled the country when her life was endangered by the Taliban takeover. She’s now in New Jersey, where everything she once knew is no more.

And, can you imagine anything worse than waking up with a cockroach in the bed next to you? What about it being in your toaster? That’s what life has become for this woman from North Philly.

Have some thoughts to share with us? Drop us a line and email us back.

— Sam Ruland (@sam_ruland,

It was a little weird, Ridley School District Superintendent Lee Ann Wentzel said, when custodians in one of the district’s elementary schools reported this fall that a toilet had been clogged with paper towels. Then it happened at another school.

“That’s when we started to find out that there’s this little challenge going on,” Wentzel said. In videos that have swept TikTok this school year and commanded the attention of children across the country, students have filmed themselves stripping soap dispensers from walls and vandalizing school bathrooms — acts they’ve dubbed “devious licks.” After reports of bathroom havoc began circulating, the social media platform removed videos tagged with that phrase, though not all have been taken down.

And it’s not just stolen soap dispensers. Some schools are wary about a new “slap a teacher” challenge that has been circulating for October, while others are dealing with other social media-induced misbehavior: On Thursday, Cheltenham High School briefly went on lockdown after a threat the school’s principal attributed to “the result of a social media challenge on TikTok.”

The principal, Renato Lajara, didn’t specify the threat received. But he pointed to a trend: “They’ll put it on social media, like, ‘Oh hey, we’ll pay you $300 if you call a bomb threat into school,’” Lajara said. “Or ‘We’ll pay you $500 if you steal Mr. So-and-So’s laptop from his classroom and post a picture of it.’ So it’s a challenge.”

The Pennsylvania State Police warned schools last month about the bathroom vandalism trend, and some local agencies and districts have been alerting parents about newly emerging challenges.

Read more about how TikTok is turning troublesome for area schools from reporters Kristen A. Graham and Maddie Hanna.

Everything’s gone.

Her job, her home, her friends, her country.

Her parents are in hiding in Afghanistan. And she’s here in America, living on a military base in South Jersey with thousands of other evacuees. The first time she even heard the name “New Jersey” was the day she arrived, six weeks ago.

Hili Chakhansuri, 30, can’t overcome the incredulity of having been hurtled from her homeland and across the globe. That it actually happened, the government collapsing, her life endangered by her work supporting the Americans – it’s very much still all a blur.

Pray for me. Those were the last words she said to her parents before heading into the chaotic crowds outside the Kabul airport.

“I’m starting from zero, like a newborn,” Chakhansuri said in a phone call from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, where she’s among some 9,500 Afghans awaiting resettlement in the U.S. “But there is hope. I came to a place that I can see hope. I can see a future for myself as a woman.”

Today about 50,000 Afghans are living on eight U.S. military installations, and it’s uncertain when they may start moving to permanent homes. Immigration processing is taking time, and the nationwide housing crunch has limited the availability of affordable apartments.

Chakhansuri doesn’t know where she’ll go, which state or city. But she hopes she gets there soon.

Read Chakhansuri’s full story here.

COVID-19 resources

  1. Here’s our latest list of restaurants, large performance venues, universities, and gyms in the Philly region where you need to show proof of vaccination.

  2. Should you laminate your vaccination card? What if you lose it? Here are the dos and don’ts.

  3. Here’s what you need to know about medical exemptions.

  4. It could be time to upgrade your face gear. Which masks work best?

What you need to know today

  1. Many Pa. school districts are passing up free coronavirus testing even after a rise in cases. Just 396 of more than 5,000 charter, private, and public schools statewide signed up between mid-August and Sept. 30 for the free weekly testing, the Pennsylvania Department of Health says. “Any reluctance on the part of the schools maybe because we need to continue educating them on the availability of it,” acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said. “And of course, we’ve tried, ad nauseam, to make sure schools are aware of it.”

  2. Relatives of the 8-year-old girl fatally shot by Sharon Hill police want the officers fired. The family’s attorney says the officers acted unreasonably in August when Fanta Bility was killed by police gunfire in the crossfire of a reported shooting.

  3. A Senate investigation targeted Pennsylvania Republicans Scott Perry and Doug Mastriano for aiding Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election. They allegedly directly contacted top law enforcement officials to reinforce baseless claims about the election.

  4. PSERS trustees agree to buy more U.S. stocks and dump hedge funds after years of debate between traditionalist and dissident board members and, more recently, acrimonious and sharp board disputes.

  5. Should expanded outdoor dining be permanent in Philly? A City Council power struggle is at the center of the debate.

Through your eyes | #OurPhilly

Spooky season is upon us. 🎃 🦇 🕸️

Tag your Instagram posts with #OurPhilly, and we’ll select a favorite each day to feature here and give you a shout-out.

That's interesting

🦟 Roaches have invaded this Brewerytown resident’s home. They’re in her microwave oven. They’re in her refrigerator. They’re in her red toaster. They’re in the knobs on her stove. They’re even in her bed — and she’s at her wit’s end trying to figure out what to do about it.

🍽️ The pandemic has changed Philly’s dining scene in so many ways. Iconic restaurants have closed, new ones have opened, and proof-of-vaccination requirements are on the rise. Here’s what to expect at Philly restaurants for the rest of the year.

🎻 The Philadelphia Orchestra reopened Carnegie Hall in New York after the pandemic closed theaters across the country.

🦅 Eagles beat writers make their predictions for the Panthers game in Week 5: Will the losing streak end?

❤️ Derek Frazier, Smokin’ Joe Frazier’s youngest child, wants to turn his Big Brother success into bigger wins. He plans to donate his prize money to help single parents and continue to bring awareness to his father’s legacy.

💪 Drexel’s Maisha Kelly is the first Black woman to lead a D-I athletics program in Philadelphia. She’s embracing the challenge, and her Philly roots.

🏀 The Sixers have been adamant and consistent about not trading Ben Simmons just to make a trade — that’s where the Indiana Pacers come in. The Sixers wouldn’t get an All-Star, but Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert together might be the best deal out there.


“This should not be the lived experience of our students and their families. Students should not fear for their safety as they commute to school or sit outside their homes. More must be done,” writes Le’Yondo Dunn, principal at Simon Gratz Mastery Charter High School. Three of his students were shot and killed last month, and Philly’s leaders are nowhere to be found.

  1. Should there be a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for nursing home staff? Two local experts debate whether nursing home workers should have to choose between the vaccine and their jobs.

  2. “In many ways, a fall strike wave would mark a new chapter in the dramatic change in worker-employer relations that began in tandem with the pandemic lockdowns of spring 2020. Either extended unemployment or the brutal conditions faced by essential workers who did stay on the job has caused millions of Americans to rethink their fundamental relationship with work.” National columnist Will Bunch writes that a strike wave is coming to save America’s working-class the old-fashioned way.

What we're reading

  1. The Atlantic dropped its new podcast, The Review, this week and in its debut episode they talk Ted Lasso and break down what’s going on beneath the surface of the “quietly genius” Emmy-winning soccer sitcom.

  2. A reader passed this one along, and I’m so glad she did — because I just love a good gerrymandering story. Originally published by USA Today, this piece shows how neighboring school districts often have vastly different levels of funding, and researchers argue that the educational inequality in America isn’t an accident, but actually by design.

Photo of the Day

✨Now, that’s one heck of a night sky. ✨