Inside One Main Line Middle School’s TikTok Nightmare

Plus: Major Philly radio station drama. And Johnny Doc to learn his fate.

Malvern's Great Valley Middle School, where a terrible TikTok scandal unfolded

Malvern’s Great Valley Middle School, where a terrible TikTok scandal unfolded (photo via Great Valley Middle School/public domain)

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Inside the TikTok Nightmare at Great Valley Middle School In Malvern

While many of us have been dreading how technology and misinformation might join forces to wreak havoc on the upcoming election and democracy itself, a Main Line middle school has seen just how destructive the potent combination can be. It started back in February.

According to this explosive story in the New York Times, it happened at Great Valley Middle School in Malvern. Spanish teacher Patrice Motz learned that students at the middle school had set up a fake TikTok account impersonating her. The students targeted other teachers as well. And these fake TikTok accounts weren’t just goofing on the teachers. Far from it.

These fake TikTok accounts, which included actual images of the teachers in question, attributed racist and homophobic statements and sexual and illegal behavior to the teachers. Motz found a photo of her with her kids with a question, posed in Spanish, that translated to “Do you like to touch kids?” Nearly a quarter of the staff was hit in what the Times describes as “the first known mass attack of its kind in the U.S.”

Whether you’re an educator, school administrator, parent, student or just a person concerned about how TikTok and other technologies can be used for evil, you really need to go read the full Times account here.

Great Valley School District superintendent Daniel Goffredo posted the following message over the weekend on the Great Valley Middle School website:

Dear Great Valley Community,

You may be aware that Great Valley Middle School students were recently highlighted in The New York Times because of their social media behavior during the 2023-2024 school year. These students created fictitious TikTok profiles that impersonated our Great Valley Middle School staff members. The New York Times article chose to cover this incident because they stated it is the first incident like this of which they are aware. I reiterate my disappointment and sadness that our students’ behavior has caused such duress for our staff. Seeing GVSD in such a prominent place in the news for behavior like this is also disheartening.

I am writing to share that over the summer, district administrators are working to identify clear and actionable ways that our already established focus on digital citizenship might be strengthened in our curriculum. We are also planning how to reestablish a culture of trust and caring district-wide, but especially in our middle school where the behavior of our students has had a profound impact on our staff. While it may be easy to react in a way that suggests that students should have been more heavily disciplined in school, some, but not all, of their behavior is protected by the right of free speech and expression. After consulting with our legal counsel, and based on each unique posting, the district enacted whatever discipline it could, communicated with families, and implemented measures in an effort to prevent future behavior like this.

Your partnership is critical. As a school district, our greatest asset is our collaboration between home and school. As we plan for the next school year, I implore you also to use the summer to have conversations with your children about the responsible use of technology, especially social media. What seemingly feels like a joke has deep and long-lasting impacts, not just for the targeted person but for the students themselves. Our best defense is a collaborative one. I have always valued your partnership and will continue to do so as we move ahead.

Enjoy the remaining weeks of summer.

Sheesh. Let’s hope this is the last attack of this kind. Something tells me it won’t be.

Joe Biden Interview Leads to Philly Radio Station Drama

You may have heard that in the days following Joe Biden’s disastrous performance at the first presidential debate, Biden did some radio interviews in which Biden aides provided questions to the radio interviewers. Andrea Lawful-Sanders at WURD conducted one such interview. And, as a result, she’s no longer with the station.

According to a statement from WURD’s president, the interview was “arranged and negotiated independently” by Lawful-Sanders “without knowledge, consultation or collaboration with WURD management.” The statement went on to read that the interview violated WURD’s “practice of remaining an independent media outlet accountable to our listeners.” According to WURD, the station and Lawful-Sanders mutually agreed to go their separate ways.

The Inquirer has some added context on this, including a statement from a Biden spokesperson — formerly a Jim Kenney spokesperson — who basically said there’s nothing to see here. On Sunday, Lawful-Sanders took to Instagram to thank her listeners.

Johnny Doc to Learn His Fate

If it seems like we’ve been talking about Johnny Doc’s FBI raids and criminal prosecutions for a long time, it’s because we have been. Well, we’ll soon be able to put Johnny Doc in our rear view mirror. A federal judge will sentence Johnny Doc this Thursday.

Prosecutors are looking for close to 15 years in federal prison for the former IBEW Local 98 head, who was convicted on bribery, embezzlement, and fraud charges. In their sentencing memorandum to the judge, prosecutors pointed to the long list of things Johnny Doc illegally bought with union money. (To refresh your memory, the original list included everything from Bruce Springsteen tickets to Starbucks Frappucinos to Q-Tips to body lotion to frozen pizzas. Frozen pizzas, Johnny?! Have you no shame?!)

Local Talent

Temple alums Daryl Hall and John Oates are coming to the Philadelphia area this summer. But certainly not together. Read the latest on their ongoing feud here.

By the Numbers

4: Days that a wildfire has been burning in South Jersey after fireworks started the blaze.

8: Lead the Phillies have on the Braves for first place in the National League East. That’s after our series against them in Atlanta over the holiday weekend. We topped them on Friday 8-6 but then lost on Saturday, 5-1. And on Sunday? An embarrassing shut out. The Phillies are now home for a series against the Dodgers, kicking off on Tuesday night. Kyle Schwarber is expected to return to the lineup, and Bryce Harper could join him. The game is very close to sold out.

90 degrees: Forecasted temperature for when that game begins. Hydrate!

100 percent: Chances that you think the idea of eating tacos today sounds like a good plan. Fortunately, we just released this amazing guide to the best tacos in the Philadelphia area.