A destructive TikTok challenge made its way onto several local campuses last month. Nationwide, schools have reported vandalism in bathrooms as a result of the so-called “Devious Licks” challenge on the social media platform. Videos with the hashtag racked up millions of views showing students targeting bathrooms by stealing or destroying mirrors, sinks, urinals, soap and hand sanitizer dispensers.
Torrey Pines High School Principal Rob Coppo said the activity started on his campus on the first week of school, primarily with soap dispensers. Close to 20 were taken off the wall, sometimes left in the toilet. Students also tore down about six toilet paper dispensers — Coppo said really anything attached to the wall became a target.
Coppo said the cost of the damages is not as big of deal as the staff time, having to stop doing other things to deal with something that is so stupid and unnecessary.
“The last thing we need on top of contact tracing, mask mandates and trying to get kids used to being in class for 90 minutes is to be chasing our tails on soap dispensers,” Coppo said, not to mention the important role soap dispensers play in ensuring safe hygiene while the pandemic continues.
In addition to Torrey Pines, the trend also made its way to Earl Warren Middle School, where about 20 soap dispensers were ripped off the bathroom walls according to Interim Superintendent Lucile Lynch. Pacific Trails Middle School Principal Mary Anne Nuskin said there were no damages at their school, besides the use of red Kool-Aid smeared on a toilet seat a few weeks ago.
Coppo said they have been able to identify a few students responsible for the vandalism but it can be tricky to catch them when they don’t know when the activity has occurred.
The district sent a message out to families about the damages and consequences and Coppo said they have talked to students. “Mercifully,” he said, the trend seems to have stopped.
TikTok reportedly banned the trend on Sept. 16 and removed videos, encouraging users to “be kind to your schools and teachers.” Some licks, however, still seem to be visible on the platform.
The trend may have been replaced with “Angelic Yields” — videos have now popped up of students leaving items to enhance their school bathrooms such as decorations or extra toilet paper, an attempt to make up for the misdeeds of the previous trend.
However, each month during the school year has its own “Devious Licks” challenge. In October, students are encouraged to slap a staff member and capture it on video.
“Educators beware!” the California Teachers Association — the largest and politically influential teacher union in the state — posted online Tuesday. The memo said: “As if widespread vandalism in our schools last month wasn’t enough, the same ‘challenge’ circulating on social media networks TikTok and Twitter is now calling for students to ‘slap a staff member.’”
The slapping challenge has put educators across the country on alert. So far, one elementary school teacher in South Carolina was hit in the back of the head, the Lancaster County School District said.
The California Teachers Association cautioned that while TikTok has not authorized or sponsored the challenge, which so far has not been widespread, “it is important to be aware that students here in California may be coerced by social media or their peers to participate.”
A TikTok spokesperson said in a statement that the company would remove videos promoting the behavior if they were posted online.
The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report. Billing writes for the U-T Community Press.