In recent weeks, an unusual phenomenon has spread to schools across much of the country: As students return to class, toilets, soap dispensers, science lab microscopes, parking signs and offices have disappeared or been damaged.
Lured by a viral TikTok challenge, students stole or vandalized objects from their schools, then showed off their antics, or “sneaky licks,” on the popular social media platform – often in the form of a time-lapse “Ski Ski BasedGod” by rapper Lil ‘B performs in the background.
“In two school years like no other, this is absolutely the last thing we have to face,” said Jeffrey Haney, spokesperson for the Canyons School District in a Salt Lake City suburb where the hall mirrors bathroom was broken and the toilet flooded.
The so-called Devious Licks challenge has sparked condemnation from already stressed school leaders, a handful of arrests and now action from TikTok, which on Wednesday announced it would remove videos associated with the trend and redirect associated hashtags. after reports of schools from California to Connecticut victim of vandalism and theft.
“We do not allow content that promotes or allows criminal activity,” a TikTok spokesperson told the Post in a statement Friday, noting that content like the Devious Licks challenge goes against the guidelines of the platform community.
Reports from across the country suggest pranks come at a steep price: A school in the San Antonio area shared photos of shattered mirrors and dislodged soap dispensers in the bathroom, while a school in the south of California said paper towel dispensers and fire alarms were gone. At a high school in eastern Michigan, the principal reported that the trend has gone beyond sweeping trophies for social media influence and “malicious vandalism” with randomly destroyed property, such as intentional toilets. bites.
School administrators respond with PSAs and letters to parents that employ a variety of tactics, from imploring students to help their overworked school staff to warning that students may face fines, replacement costs, suspension from school or even criminal prosecution.
TikTok challenges typically go from a silly challenge or memorable attempt at reaction – like the Milk Crate and Frozen Honey challenges – to a viral trend where participants attempt to outdo already wacky feats (often against pleading by pros. health).
For some school administrators, the Devious Licks challenge is not only frustrating, it’s confusing in a year when so many people were eager to return to a school setting.
Haney, with the Canyons School District in Utah, said that although her district is luckier than some with the taxpayer’s investment in the local school system, they have no money to spare.
“Every penny we get, we want to invest in the classroom,” he said.
District directors reported smashed mirrors, soap smeared on bathroom walls and floors, and even damage to the sprinkler system heat sensors that caused the alarm to sound, ring and ring. .
The damage estimate at Canyons is still being calculated, but Haney said there was already an immediate impact on staff time.
“Our guards end up being primarily responsible for the cleanup,” he said. “Nowadays we have asked our caretakers to be on the front lines and ask them to make sure our schools are as clean as possible. And every time they have to clean up this mess, it takes time to make our schools safe and welcoming. “
The behavior in his district goes beyond children being children, he argued. For some of the older students, there could be serious consequences: Students could face felony charges if the damages exceed $ 1,000, he said.
“Let’s not forget that many of our seniors are over 18, they could face charges as adults,” he said.
Many of the district’s 34,000 students are also fed up, Haney added. In Utah, students can access an app called SafeUT, managed by the Utah State Board of Education. Originally launched as a suicide intervention tool, students can also use it to report unsafe behavior: In recent days, students in the Canyons District have used it to report damage associated with the Devious Challenge. Licks, he said.
“It takes a lot for teens to denounce a peer,” he said.
On Friday, the videos associated with the challenge were still readily available on TikTok, sometimes under alternate spellings or slightly reworded versions of the “DeviousLicks” hashtag.
Snippets of unzipped backpacks revealing a stolen soap dispenser were still plentiful, but a new trend had already emerged: Students pointing their phones at the wall or ceiling like an exasperated principal could be heard over the public address system telling people students to stop it.