A viral TikTok challenge that encourages students to vandalize school property is sweeping across the United States, and kids in schools in Greene, Washington and Fayette counties are participating.
The TikTok trend involves students, mostly in middle and high schools, vandalizing or destroying school property, most often in bathrooms, and then posting videos of the damage to social media with the hashtag #deviouslicks.
“We’re in a pandemic and we don’t need this,” said Dr. Edward Zelich, superintendent of Charleroi Area School District, where last week soap dispensers were torn off walls, soap was smeared on floors, a bathroom sink was partially ripped from a wall, and paper products and items were stuffed in toilets.
Teacher materials also have been stolen.
Other school districts, including Central Greene and Jefferson-Morgan in Greene County and Frazier in Fayette County, also have experienced vandalism and theft. Central Greene Superintendent Dr. Kevin Monaghan said soap and paper dispensers were destroyed in the high school.
Brandon Robinson, principal of the Jefferson-Morgan Middle-Senior High School, recently posted on the district’s Facebook page that the school has had bathroom soap dispensers destroyed and teachers have had numerous items stolen from their rooms.
In the post, Robinson said he told the students that the district will not stand for the vandalism being committed in its schools. “As I investigate each of these instances, we will use our school surveillance system to identify possible vandalism and theft,” he states in the post. “Any student involved in these actions will fall into a Level IV Discipline infraction and will face a suspension, 45-day social probation, restitution, and charges filed at the magistrate (pg. 41 of student handbook).
“We all have worked very hard to keep our school as a place that is welcoming to students with updated bathrooms, and learning spaces,” the post continues. “We will not allow this to continue and ruin this atmosphere.”
Robinson encourages parents to speak with their children about the challenges and the consequences that they could face if they participate.
In Charleroi, at least one student has been suspended for the vandalism.
In a letter to parents on the district website, Zelich noted that students who engage in school vandalism will face other disciplinary actions, including paying for damages.
Initially, Charleroi responded by closing restrooms and posting staff members outside of the restrooms that remained open, but later reopened all bathrooms.
“Our thought was, why punish all for a couple?” Zelich said. “We are hoping students police themselves.”
Earlier this month, Pennsylvania State Police sent school administrators an alert about the social media challenge, adding the challenge began earlier in the month when a TikTok user showed off a bottle of hand sanitizer in his backpack and wrote in the caption the theft had been a “devious lick.” A lick is slang for a theft.
Police also warned of another bathroom challenge that specifically called for the destruction of property.
Police said some of the thefts present health and safety concerns, such as the theft of fire alarms, traffic signals and signs, and fire extinguishers.
Across the country, schools are reporting broken mirrors and light fixtures, stolen field turf, and swiped microscopes and lab equipment.
The videos that have flooded TikTok in recent weeks are accompanied by a sped-up version of Lil B’s song, “Ski Ski BasedGod.”
Many of the “devious lick” videos have been removed from TikTok, and a search for the hashtag on the platform no longer shows results. Instead, a message states in part: “This phrase may be associated with behavior or content that violates our guidelines.”
But, videos still appear under similar hashtags and on other platforms like Twitter.
“And it is rather frustrating when the social media platforms allow this to continue,” said Dr. William Henderson III, superintendent of Frazier School District.
The Charleroi district encouraged parents to have conversations with their children about the social media trend.
“It’s just perplexing to me why a student would do this,” said Zelich. “It’s inexcusable. It’s nonsense.”