High Schoolers Are Using TikTok To Organize A Strike In Solidarity With Their Teachers
"Anything can go viral, so I was hoping mine would go viral so more people would get informed and want to speak out and get this change the teachers deserve."
For high schoolers in the Clark County School District in Nevada, the revolution will not be televised — but it will be TikTok'd.
In solidarity with their teachers who are planning a strike on Sept. 10 to protest being denied raises they say they were previously promised, Clark County students are using TikTok, an app known for its short and funny videos, to organize a "student strike" of their own.
Gillian Sullivan, 16, kicked off the plans for the Sept. 5 student strike after she had a TikTok go viral in which she blasted the unfair conditions under which her teachers were working.
"Our district is refusing to give teachers — who 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. And our school district won’t give it to them. Like, literally, they won’t pay the teachers what the teachers earned," Gillian says in the video.
Three years ago, teachers had been guaranteed professional development raises for furthering their education. But the school district did not budget enough money and offered significantly smaller raises instead, according to KSNV. While some compromise has been made, negotiations are still continuing, according to the teachers union. (The school district did not respond to a request for comment.)
Gillian said she decided to organize a strike after her mom, an employee of the district for more than 20 years, was denied a professional development raise she'd gone back to school to work for. "I can’t even imagine how frustrating it must be to work at a job and be promised a raise contractually and then not be guaranteed that," Gillian told BuzzFeed News.
Gillian decided her fellow students at Foothill High School deserved to know how their teachers were being treated. "That night, I posted on TikTok, my Instagram story, and my Snapchat story, and I posted the TikTok I made on Twitter as well," she said. "I just figured I might as well use social media because I know all my friends are on it, and it’s a good way to get stuff out there."
It absolutely blew up. The TikTok has more than 35,000 likes, and a tweet with the video went viral as well.
Though Gillian's TikTok was only intended for students of the school district — which, at more than 300,000 students, is the fifth largest in the nation — it quickly spread beyond her classmates.
High schoolers all across the country commented about the unfair treatment their own teachers have faced, and many said they would strike on Sept. 5 too.
Gillian said the response from students in her own district has been "super positive," and she thinks a critical mass will participate in the strike. "A lot of people in my classes have been talking about it," she said. "Today one of my teachers brought it up, like, ‘Hey, who’s not gonna be here the fifth?’ and like 10 kids raised their hand in that class alone."
The teachers have been thankful too, she said. "A lot of teachers have said they're proud of me and really appreciate that I'm getting students involved," she said.
After Gillian's TikTok made waves, Leonardo Bueno, a 17-year-old at Eldorado High School, voiced his own support for his school district's student strike in a three-part TikTok.
"We should also be speaking up about teachers being underpaid and not getting their salary," Leonardo said in the TikTok. "Teachers put their life and dedication in teaching us, because they are teaching the future of this country."
Leonardo told BuzzFeed News he'd previously been outspoken about the treatment of teachers, but decided to join in the TikTok conversation after he saw Gillian's video.
"Anything can go viral, so I was hoping mine would go viral so more people would get informed and want to speak out and get this change the teachers deserve," he said. "The more people that know about it, the more that are educated on this subject, the bigger our voices are, and the closer we come to getting this change."
Gillian said she's speaking to students like Leonardo at all the schools in the district and thinks there will be a strong turnout (she's hoping a third of her classmates strike). "I know for a lot of kids this will be just a 'ditch day,' but I genuinely do care about the teachers and the betterment of my school," she said.
The morning of Sept. 5, she plans to stand outside of the school with her friends and tell any students who hadn't yet heard about the strike that they should skip school that day.
"Once school has started, I’m gonna go home, and I’m probably gonna watch TikToks for the rest of that day," she said.
More than anything, Gillian hopes the student strike shows the district why paying teachers fairly matters so much.
"This raise issue isn’t just about money — it’s driving teachers’ passion out," she said. "When teachers aren’t passionate, it really affects the students. When teachers don’t care about they’re teaching, students don’t care about what they’re learning.
"And we’re not that important currently, but we’re the future of the nation and the school district," she said.