N.J. middle schoolers charged with assault in TikTok ‘skull breaker challenge’

A YouTube compilation of skull breaker challenge videos. This is not the video involved in the New Jersey case. (YouTube)

A YouTube compilation of skull breaker challenge videos. This is not the video involved in the New Jersey case. (YouTube)

Prosecutors have brought charges against two Cherry Hill middle schoolers for giving a classmate a concussion while participating in the viral “skull breaker challenge.”

The victim, a 13-year-old boy, likely experienced a seizure after his head slammed the floor, his father Marc Shenker said. The boy is back in school now, but he was hospitalized for two days and is still recovering.

Shenker’s son was the target of the “skull breaker challenge,” footage of which has circulated widely on the video-sharing app TikTok and resulted in reports of serious injury everywhere from Arkansas to England.

In the challenge, three people standing side-by-side take turns jumping in the air. When the unsuspecting person in the middle jumps, the two people on the ends swipe out his legs, sending him careening backward.

The Camden County Prosecutor’s Office charged the two middle schoolers with third-degree aggravated assault and third-degree endangering an injured victim. A spokesperson for the office declined to name the boys or give their ages because they are minors.

The endangering an injured victim charge suggests the two boys left the area when their classmate was clearly injured, according to New Jersey charging guidelines.

The prosecutor’s office spokesperson declined to explain their rationale for bringing charges or whether they had consulted with the victim’s family.

Shenker himself declined to comment on the case but does want to make sure other parents know what is happening.

“Our concern is that our son is recuperating and getting better,” he said. “Hopefully the boys will have learned a very, very valuable lesson to never do something like this again.”

The Cherry Hill incident happened on Jan. 24. The injured boy returned to school a week later, although he still is not participating in gym class and must limit his time in front of screens because he is not fully recovered.

His parents said they do not want to share his name or school to protect his privacy. No footage of the incident has emerged.

“He’s recovering well. It’s still a day-to-day thing,” Shenker said. “There are some activities that 13-year-old boys really like to do” — like play video games — “that, when he does, it wears him out.”

Shenker said he and his wife were at first reluctant to talk publicly about their son’s ordeal until they discovered a disturbing Facebook post from a mom in Arizona whose son was hospitalized after getting injured in a skull breaker challenge.

In that case, the boy landed hard on his back and head, and then lost consciousness as he tried to stand up, causing him to slam the front of his face into the asphalt below.

Other horror stories about the TikTok “challenge” abound. The Alabama boy who broke his wrist. The Massachusetts girl who thought she’d been paralyzed. The British teen at sports practice who suffered ligament damage and potentially broken bones in her neck.

“Our goal is to keep this from happening to other kids, and not just this prank but whatever next week’s prank is and the one after that,” Shenker said.

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