In January 2023, we began encountering online specimens of a flyer supposedly posted in the hallway of a high school somewhere in the United States notifying students that a "Mandatory Penis Inspection" would soon take place.
It appeared to be a hoax at first glance, and sure enough, it was. It only took a few minutes of investigation to confirm that the hoax was widespread, long-lived, and not confined to the United States. Aided and abetted by the internet, posting (and/or emailing or texting) such notifications has been a common high school "senior prank" for over a decade.
For one recent example, this photo was shared on Twitter on Jan. 24, 2023:
Since 2011, if not before, the "Mandatory Penis Inspection" prank has cropped up year after year in different locations, sometimes even garnering media notoriety. In May 2019, for instance, a group of students hacked into their high school's email system to transmit this notification:
This variant had been posted at another high school just a month before:
As it turns out, penis inspections aren't just for secondary students. The following variant was posted in a U.S. Navy facility in October 2018. It says inspections will be carried out by one MIDN 1/C Toole:
The date on this variant of the announcement was May 2017:
The "Mandatory Penis Inspection" tradition (if we may call it that) has provided fodder for many an amusing news story, exemplified by headlines such as this one from the Daily Mail in May 2014: "High school suspects seniors pranked school with official penis inspection letters signed by 'penis inspector' Richard Dong."
The publication of a prank notification to the students of the University of British Columbia in November 22 actually sparked an official notification about the notification: "UBC aware of fake letter about penis inspection making rounds on campus."
And a breathless article in the April 29, 2017, edition of The Sun was incomparably headlined: "WHAT A COCK-UP: School pupils sent letters about 'mandatory penis inspection' in bizarre sixth form prank."