Two charged after 'skull-breaker challenge' lands boy, 13, in hospital
Two New Jersey students face criminal charges after their classmate was seriously injured during the "skull-breaker challenge," a dangerous game that involves a person being tricked into jumping in the air as someone else kicks their feet from under them.
The challenge has been recorded on video and shared on social media platforms, such as TikTok.
Stacy Shenker, of Cherry Hill, said she and her husband had never heard of the game until it sent their 13-year-old son to the hospital in January with a major concussion.
Shenker told NBC News in a phone interview on Tuesday that she received a call from her son's middle school in Cherry Hill on Jan. 24 informing her that the seventh-grader had been injured.
By the time she arrived at the school roughly 20 minutes later, Shenker said her son was nonresponsive and an ambulance had been called. First responders told her that the boy had suffered a seizure, she said.
"Initially, we didn't know what happened," she said. "At that point, we had never heard of the prank."
As the hospital ran tests on the boy, the school called Shenker's husband to tell him that he had been injured in the skull-breaker challenge.
According to NBC New York, the challenge involves three people standing side-by-side as they all say they're going to jump into the air. The two on the end, however, do not jump and instead kick the middle person's legs from under them causing that person to fall.
In the case of Shenker's son, he spent more than 24 hours in the hospital and is now home recovering, his mother said. He was able to return to school after his parents and the school agreed on "academic accommodations," and he recently began physical therapy so he can return to playing sports.
"It was really very scary," she said. "My son is slowly making progress."
The two Cherry Hill students accused of injuring Shenker's son have been charged with third-degree aggravated assault and third-degree endangering an injured victim, the Camden County Prosecutor's Office told NBC News Tuesday.
The prosecutor's office declined to release further details on the case because those involved are minors.
Shenker said she decided to share what happened to her son after seeing other parents post online about injuries their children suffered as a result of the skull-breaker challenge.
"Parents need to know about this because it could happen again," she explained. "It's really opened our eyes to what is out there."
Shenker said she follows her children on TikTok to keep up with what they are doing and urged other parents to do the same.
Joseph Meloche, superintendent of Cherry Hill Public Schools, shared those same sentiments in a Feb. 27 letter to the community in response to the incident involving Shenker's son.
"Recently, a few CHPS students attempted to replicate 'pranks' or 'challenges' they saw on Tik Tok, and other platforms, resulting in classmates being injured — physically and emotionally," Meloche said.
"Often, children act impulsively and without considering the consequence of their actions. If your child has an electronic device, ask them to share what apps they are viewing and using. Help them to understand the extreme unintended outcomes that may occur because of a fleeting moment of making a bad choice," he continued.
TikTok did not immediately return NBC News' request for comment but a Feb. 27 post on its website said it does not allow content "that encourages or replicates dangerous challenges that might lead to injury."