Police are investigating an “unusual” incident outside a Wellesley elementary school Wednesday morning in which a man offered a boy a cellphone and asked him to participate in an online challenge linked to self-harm, officials said.
The incident occurred Wednesday outside of the Sprague School before classes began. A student reported seeing a bearded man in the bushes on the Oak Street side of the school building. The boy said the man then offered him a cellphone and asked the student to participate in the “Blue Whale” challenge, Wellesley police said in a statement.
The student immediately left the scene and had no further contact with the man.
The man was reported to be white, in his 20s, around 5 feet 6 inches tall, with long, curly brown hair in a ponytail, and a beard with no mustache.
Other incidents involving similar behavior have not been reported in the town, Wellesley police said.
The “Blue Whale” challenge reportedly uses social media to lead participants through a series of steps involving self-harm lasting 50 days and culminating in suicide.
Parents of a San Antonio teenager who committed suicide in July attribute his death to the challenge, although some watchdog organizations say it might be a hoax perpetrated by Russian media.
In August, Boston Public Schools issued a warning regarding the challenge, although the school system had not received any reports of students engaged in the game.
“Please remind your child to report anything that seems strange to a teacher/parent and to quickly get away from any strange situation,” Wellesley police said. “Please call 9-1-1 to report any suspicious incidents or people as well.”
Wellesley police are investigating the incident with assistance from Wellesley Public Schools.Ben Thompson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Globe_Thompson.