Toilets ripped from school walls. Soap dispensers tossed in the commodes. School supplies snatched into the oblivion. It’s the latest TikTok trend with a dark side, coinciding with an unprecedented back to school season. Dubbed “devious licks,” the social media challenge involves vandalizing school property and posting the shenanigans on the video app—and students at DC-area schools are getting in on the action.
Middle school and high school principals have been sending messages to families throughout the past two weeks warning of the ongoing TikTok trend, noting “devious licks” have occurred on school grounds. Principal Daniel Hornick at North Stafford High School sent a letter to families last week describing the uptick in incidents, Inside NoVa reports.
“The vandalism has primarily occurred in student restrooms throughout the building and is causing considerable disruption and damage to school property,” Hornick wrote. “Meanwhile, teachers and students have informed administrators and school security about miscellaneous items that have unexpectedly disappeared.”
Soap dispensers specifically have been a target of the mischief, presenting an alarming health concern amid the ongoing pandemic. Forget about reciting the alphabet or singing Happy Birthday twice: Without soap, hand-washing has become a hand-wringer for administrators. Principal Darwin Barker at Fairfax County’s Sandburg Middle School bemoaned this particular concern in an e-mail to families last week.
“We are especially concerned because soap dispensers are being taken from our restrooms, presenting a challenge to maintaining a healthy and safe school environment,” Barker wrote. “In response, we are checking restrooms throughout the day and using our interior cameras to monitor who is going in and out.”
Alternatives to Washington hands with suds are available at schools, but do not provide the same level of sanitation. When asked about a purported lack of soap at Alexandria City High School, Claire Going, media specialist for Alexandria City Public Schools, wrote in an email to Washingtonian “With the enhanced cleaning protocols currently in place, numerous hand-sanitizing stations are always accessible to students.”
Although the lavatory larks are the work of a fraction of students, the consequences have been felt campus wide. “Devious lick” incidents at Takoma Park Middle School lead the school to lock the water closets during the transition period between classes, the New York Times reports. In Chantilly, Principal Amy Goodloe at Rocky Run Middle School sent parents a message with a warning that the loo might be closed in the future if the behavior persists.
Personal repercussion have been leveraged, too. A Stafford High School student is facing criminal charges after being spotted tearing down the soap dispenser in neighboring Chichester Park during school hours.
The high school high jinks have even made it to the halls of Congress, where Senator Richard Blumenthal sent a letter to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew on Monday imploring the app to take action in deleting videos and banning users. TikTok effectively barred the challenge last week, and searches for “devious lick” will return no videos. Instead, would-be viewers will find a foreboding message: “This phrase may be associated with behavior or content that violates our guidelines. Promoting a safe and positive experience is TikTok’s top priority.” For now, it seems the app is attempting to flush this particular trend down the toilet.