Two Massachusetts teenagers will be charged after eight electrical outlets at their high school in Hanson were short-circuited as part of a social media challenge, police said Tuesday.
The "outlet challenge," made popular on TikTok, involves partially inserting a plug into an outlet, then sliding a penny down the wall onto the exposed prongs. Massachusetts fire officials have already issued warnings about the meme.
Two boys, aged 15 and 16, are accused of carrying out the challenge Thursday at Whitman-Hanson Regional High School. They are facing charges of attempting to burn a public building and malicious destruction of public property, Hanson police said.
School officials told officers that the boys were responsible for damaging "some, if not all," of the eight outlets that were affected, according to police.
"This is not just a harmless prank that kids are doing," Hanson Police Chief Michael Miksch said in a statement. "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."
The same day the outlets were scorched in Hanson, similar charges were announced against two 15-year-old boys accused of performing the challenge at nearby Plymouth North High School.
The social media challenge has prompted fire officials across Massachusetts to speak out. The state fire marshal's office released an advisory last week about incidents in Holden and Westford Academy that led to fires.
In the advisory, Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey wrote: "You might reach out to local news outlets, school officials, and parent organizations. Alert them to this challenge, advise them to, not only look for signs of fire play like scorched outlets, but to have conversations about fire and electrical safety with tweens and teenagers. S.A.F.E. educators might reach out to their school partners because teaching why this is dangerous could be a good science lesson."
On Thursday, the superintendent of schools in West Bridgewater said vandalism had been discovered that damaged several outlets. School officials were working with police and fire officials to investigate.