Metro

Man outside Wellesley school asked student to try self-harm challenge

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 ben.thompson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Globe_Thompson.
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