Student Thefts Devious Licks

Cuyler Dunn via Associated Press

Vandalism forced the closure of this restroom at Lawrence (Kansas) High School. Students across the country are videoing themselves stealing soap dispensers, microscopes and even turf off stadium football fields and posting their heists on TikTok in a phenomenon dubbed “devious licks” that is bedeviling administrators and forcing them to shut down bathrooms.

A viral TikTok challenge that encourages students to vandalize school property is sweeping across the United States, and kids in schools in Washington, Greene, 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 Frazier in Fayette County and Central Greene in Greene County also have experienced vandalism and theft. Central Greene Superintendent Dr. Kevin Monaghan said soap and paper dispensers were destroyed in the high school.

At least one student has been suspended at Charleroi 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.”

Late last week, 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.”

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