The Modesto Bee
A viral social media challenge has led Stanislaus County students to steal or damage soap dispensers, hand dryers, sinks and more from school bathrooms.
The students are participating in the “devious lick” trend that started on video-sharing app TikTok earlier this month, according to knowyourmeme.com. TikTokers across the country are posting videos in which they brag about stealing items from their schools. Young people used the hashtag #deviouslick on these videos until TikTok removed it Wednesday.
School officials from at least three Stanislaus County districts threatened this week to suspend students caught damaging school property and request parents pay for removed or damaged items. They’re encouraging parents to monitor their children’s social media accounts and talk with them about the consequences of stealing or damaging school property.
“Don’t risk getting suspended just because of a TikTok challenge,” Modesto City Schools spokeswoman Krista Noonan said. “Students will get punished when they’re identified, and parents can also be held liable for the cost.”
It’s unclear how many items students have stolen or damaged, and how much money their actions cost. School officials indicated they would reach out to police regarding the vandalism.
As of Thursday morning, the Modesto Police Department had not received reports of school vandalism inspired by the challenge, spokeswoman Sharon Bear said. Students could potentially be cited if they were proved to have stolen something substantial, such as a laptop, Bear said.
Just one school in Modesto’s largest district was impacted by the trend as of Thursday, Noonan said. Cameras revealed students at Mark Twain Junior High School ripped off a piece of tile from a wall, removed soap dispensers, attempted to pull away a sink and kicked partitions in a school restroom on Wednesday, Noonan said.
“Students really need to understand that there are repercussions for any type of actions that they take out trying to fulfill this so-called challenge,” she said. “It’s not OK, and the behavior won’t be tolerated.”
Patterson Joint Unified School District is increasing campus surveillance and reviewing camera footage after finding soap dispensers stolen and bathrooms destroyed, Assistant Superintendent Joseph Silveira wrote in a Wednesday message to parents.
The district has received reports of about eight incidents related to the challenge, spokesman Johnny Padilla said in an email.
“A ‘Devious Licks’ action would most likely be a serious offense, as the child would be found to have committed theft or damaged school property,” Silveira wrote.
He said students can return stolen property to their assistant principal by 3:15 p.m. Friday to “avoid disciplinary action or loss of their privileges.”
Otherwise, students could face a suspension at minimum, charges for stolen property and a request for a parent or guardian to reimburse the school. Students also could be prohibited from participating in extracurricular activities, according to the letter.
Turlock Unified School District shared a similar message with families Thursday, saying school officials are heightening surveillance and reviewing camera footage, according to a Facebook post. Multiple Turlock schools have been damaged because of the trend, Assistant Superintendent Barney Gordon said in an email.
A Turlock High employee posted on her Facebook page Wednesday night that damage is being done daily at the school: “We just opened bathrooms back up today after a week of cleaning and repairs and within an hour, more destructive behavior!! Students are removing hand dryers and leaving exposed wires, removing thermostats, hand soap dispensers and more!! The brand new science building is being hit the hardest!! It’s devastating!”
A TikTok spokesperson told McClatchy news on Wednesday: “We expect our community to stay safe and create responsibly, and we do not allow content that promotes or enables criminal activities. We are removing this content and redirecting hashtags and search results to our Community Guidelines to discourage such behavior.”
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