Some teens use TikTok, the popular short-form video app, to share funny and memorable clips with their friends. But in one school district in Nevada, high schoolers recently used the platform for a more unusual purpose: To support their teachers ahead of a threatened strike — and to organize a picket line of their own.
Educators in Clark County had planned to walk off the job on Sept. 10 to protest a failure of their school district — the country’s fifth-largest — to honor a promise to give raises to educators who’d completed three years of professional development.
The fallout from a strike would’ve been enormous. Officials had warned the action would “devastate” schools and, as teacher strikes are illegal in Nevada, the striking union would’ve risked being fined $50,000 a day for picketing.
Despite the stakes, Clark County teachers said they had no other options.
“It makes me very upset with where we are as a district,” kindergarten teacher Kristan Nigro told KLAS-TV earlier this month.
But it wasn’t just teachers who were angry.
Students like 16-year-old Gillian Sullivan were frustrated on their teachers’ behalf — and they soon made their disgruntlement known via TikTok.
Sullivan, whose mom is a veteran employee of the district, posted a video on the social media app last week that explained how teachers in Clark County had “spent the past three years earning enough credits out of their own pockets, spending extra hours outside of school to earn credits to get a raise” ― yet now, the high schooler said, “our school district won’t give it to them.”
“Personally, I don’t think this is fair, and I’m kind of sick of our district thinking it’s OK to walk all over teachers and students all of the time,” Sullivan said in the clip.
She invited fellow students to join her in a strike of their own on Sept. 5 ― to stand in solidarity with their teachers.
“If you’re sick of this too, and you want respect for yourself as a student but also for your teachers, please strike Sept. 5 because I’m done, and you should be too. Teachers deserve more respect than that. And it’s disgusting,” she said.
Sullivan told BuzzFeed that she thought her message would reach her friends in high school and perhaps other schools in the district. But within days, her video had spread like wildfire across the country.
Her TikTok post has more than 36,000 likes to date. It inspired other students, like 17-year-old Leonardo Bueno, also a Clark County high schooler, to post TikToks of their own supporting teachers and fellow students.
Many youngsters not just in Clark County ― but across the country ― agreed to join Sullivan’s student strike in support of their teachers, according to BuzzFeed.
“A lot of teachers have said they’re proud of me and really appreciate that I’m getting students involved,” Sullivan told the outlet.
In the end, however, it appears that neither strike will take place.
Late Wednesday, the Clark County School District and the teachers’ union announced they had struck a deal. The agreement includes a salary increase for teachers who participated in the professional development program, as well as 3% raises and more funding for health insurance.
As AP noted, the deal still needs to be ratified by union executives and school district trustees ― but both sides said they expect no further hiccups.
Though it’s unclear what influence ― if any ― the students’ social media activism had on the final deal, Sullivan suggested in a new TikTok video that their voices had made a difference.
“Through social media and people actively speaking out, we got what we wanted,” a smiling Sullivan said on Wednesday. “I’m really happy, I’m really grateful for everybody who liked, commented and shared my post because it allowed for a lot more people to be informed about the issue within the school district including students.”
“Thank you to our teachers,” she added. “I’m so happy they’re getting their raise … we did it, guys. Give yourselves a pat on the back; give yourselves a high five. We won.”