As if schools don’t have enough headaches right now, a TikTok trend has encouraged vandalizing school bathrooms in September. The next one could be aimed at assaulting teachers in October.
TikTok is a social media platform known for sharing videos of people doing outlandish, impressive or funny things. With hashtags, viral videos often launch challenges that range from silly dances to giving eggs to dogs to arranging gummy bears to an Adele song.
Other challenges can be more sinister, dangerous or destructive, such as the “Devious Lick” challenge. According to the Urban Dictionary, a “lick” is a successful theft. Starting in early September, students have been recording “Devious Lick” videos of school bathroom vandalism and thefts.
Schools all over the country are reporting a rash of bathroom destruction. Many cases in Oregon are minor, such as making a mess with paper towels or locking a stall door and sliding out underneath. But there has also been graffiti and destruction or theft of bathroom fixtures, especially soap dispensers.
TikTok has banned the videos and redirects “Devious Lick” searches to a community guidelines page. Lists for a year of “Devious Lick” challenges are floating around the Internet, though, showing worse still to come. October suggests striking a teacher or school staff member, on the butt in some lists. Other months encourage sexual harassment of peers, flashing and more vandalism.
It can’t be predicted how much traction the rest of the list will gain, but Oregon school leaders are taking it seriously.
“It is a little alarming that that is out there with how many kids followed along with the September challenge,” said Susanne Stefani, Lebanon Community Schools director of communications and online learning.
Stefani said other districts are reporting lots of bathroom incidents, with more students acting out than they have seen with other social media-related pranks. She said a Lebanon middle school had to close all but one bathroom for a week. The district is prepared to react swiftly and firmly to further incidents, Stefani said.
It is an unfortunate distraction when school leaders are already straining to deal with COVID-19 disruptions, Stefani said. The fact soap dispensers for keeping hands clean seem to be a particular favorite target makes it just a little worse.
Some schools have resorted to restricting or changing bathroom privileges. In the Lincoln County School District, they have closed bathrooms that are not easily visible or removed exterior doors if they do not impact stall privacy. The district has used restorative measures with students, including meetings and cleaning opportunities, according to Majalise Tolan, director of secondary education and alternative education
The Hermiston School District has recorded at least 10 bathroom incidents, according to Superintendent Tricia Mooney. She said there have been school consequences and legal consequences are possible, especially if students assault staff.
Mooney said she has been reluctant to punish everyone with bathroom restrictions for the misdeeds of a few. With all the stress teachers are under, she is also hoping a letter to parents will help end the mayhem and it doesn’t get worse.
“With vandalizing the bathroom, there is some anonymity, so I am hopeful it has run its course,” she said.