TikTok trend strips schools of supplies

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A sign on a closed restroom at Lawrence High School in Lawernce, Kan. 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. (Cuyler Dunn via AP)

It’s devious. It’s dubious. It’s devilish. It’s vandalism. A new TikTok trend called “devious licks” is stripping schools of clocks, soap dispensers, fire extinguishers, mirrors, toilets and more, costing some school districts up to thousands of dollars.

The trend is straightforward. Students record themselves opening up their backpack with a remixed Lil B song blaring in the background, to reveal whatever odd thing they’ve stolen from school. The bigger the item, the more devious it is. Once the trend became viral, it spread like wildfire. Schools across the United States are without essential items, some more costly than others.

@sw.aidennn

#fyp #fy #viral #smh

♬ original sound – Hazi Miller

Warning: the song in the video uses profanity.

Canyons School District spokesman Jeff Haney said the district’s schools aren’t only taking a hit financially, but staff are putting in extra work to clean up the mess students are leaving behind. Custodial workers have had to take extra care to disinfect areas for COVID-19 and clean up the devious licks messes.

“We do not have a damage estimate yet. But it’s substantial, possibly in the thousands. That said, it’s not just the cost of the items being stolen, it’s the staff time we have to dedicate to cleaning it up,” Haney said.

Alta High School was one school affected by the trend, as Principal Brian McGill noticed an increase of vandalism. “What I started noticing was our kids were doing stuff in the bathrooms,” McGill said.

He gave examples of students removing soap dispensers, taking mirrors down off bathroom walls, and vandalizing and painting walls. He said some kids reran some of the school’s urinal plumbing so that it got pulled out and would spray somebody if they hit the handles.

McGill realized the issue was bigger than his own school when two other principals talked to him about similar instances happening at their schools. That’s when he realized students were being motivated by a TikTok trend. In response, he spoke to the student body and sent out a letter to parents, warning of the consequences of stealing and vandalizing property.

Students who do not return items or commit irreversible damage will have to pay back the school or work off their actions through hourly custodial work, depending on the severity of their actions, McGill said.

According to Alta High School student Danielle Gibson, the trend may have started because some students think stealing smaller, less impactful objects like a roll of toilet paper is funny, but over time it went too far.

“I think it’s a little bit childish if I’m being honest. Especially at my school which has been very newly renovated,” Gibson said. “Our janitorial staff does not get paid enough to deal with this and they’re understaffed as it is, so it just seems incredibly disrespectful to them and our administration. It’s costing money we shouldn’t have to spend on a TikTok trend.”

Though most of the instances happen at high schools, colleges aren’t immune to the trend. BYU students living in Helaman Halls reported two microwaves stolen but returned in Budge Hall, the poles of a foosball table ripped out, a bench turned upward and covered in cheese slices, a wet paint sign stolen and a pylon from the BYU vs. Utah game taken from the field and signed by various students.

Helaman Halls resident Mark Whisenant said he was trying to make Bagel Bites and couldn’t find either of the microwaves in the building. “I think a lot of it was the devious lick trend. I don’t know about all of it though, some people just really like stealing stuff.”

TikTok responded to the issue by removing the devious licks hashtag and those affiliated with it. Many of the videos have been removed to stop the popularity of the trend. But others can still be found by searching misspellings of the phrase such as “devous ilcks” used to avoid videos being taken down.

Students also began a new trend called, “angelic yields” where people do acts of service to make up for the mess devious licks made. Videos on TikTok show kids returning or bringing new soap to the bathrooms, leaving money on the counters and bringing rolls of toilet paper to the stalls.

McGill hasn’t seen any more instances of damage to the school since the issue has been addressed. For students at Alta High School, the devious licks trend is now seen as more detrimental than funny.

“I think we’ve pretty much moved past it,” Gibson said. “People have expressed they don’t think the trend is funny anymore.”

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