TikTok ‘devious licks’ vandalism challenge hits bathrooms at QHS, QJHS

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QUINCY — Junior high schools, high schools and colleges across the country have seen a recent increase in vandalism because of a social media challenge.

Quincy hasn’t avoided it.

Jody Steinke, principal at Quincy High School, reported “maybe six, no more than eight” incidents during a four-day stretch last week at the 33rd and Maine campus. Dan Sparrow, principal at Quincy Junior High School, also reported two “minor” incidents last week in his building at 14th and Maine.

School districts everywhere are responding to the “devious licks” challenge recently perpetuated on TikTok, a video-sharing focused social networking service owned by Chinese company ByteDance. The social media platform typically is used to make a variety of short-form videos, from genres like dance, comedy and education, with a duration from 15 seconds to three minutes.

TikTok removes offending videos from platform

The “lick,” a slang term for theft, often includes items such as soap and hand sanitizer. However, it has included nationwide more serious items like toilet seats, school signs and even fire alarms. Students steal items from school property, then post videos of the stolen loot on TikTok.

Most of the incidents in Quincy last week took place in bathrooms and, specifically, soap dispensers. A sign was taken at QHS, Steinke said.

TikTok recently tried to shut down the trend, removing many of the videos from its platform.

If a user searches today for the term “devious licks” on the TikTok app, a message from TikTok appears: “No results found. 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 more information, we invite you to review our Community Guidelines.”

QHS looking for restitution for incidents

CNN recently reported some schools are locking bathrooms for large portions of the day in response to the social media challenge. Steinke said officials at QHS are merely monitoring the bathrooms more closely and doing more frequent sweeps.

“We take each case individually, so a lot depends on what we learn. I think in these situations, we also are looking for restitution for what was taken or what was damaged in the restroom,” Superintendent Roy Webb said.

In-school suspensions were served for both incidents at QJHS, Sparrow said.

“We’re doing more public service announcements about it,” he said. “We’re letting them know this could result in a suspension, a potential arrest and restitution. If you break a pipe in our restroom, it’s like pulling the fire alarm.”

He said the latest stunt pulled by students is to put water on the back of a hall pass given by a teacher to use the restroom, then stick the pass on the walls of the bathroom.

The Springfield State Journal-Register reported a male student from Taylorville High School was arrested for criminal damage to property last Wednesday. The student, under the age of 18, received a summons to appear in court. Criminal damage to property is a Class A misdemeanor. The student reportedly ripped a soap dispenser from the wall in a men’s bathroom.

Webb: ‘It’s not the brightest thing … to commit a crime and then post it on TikTok’

Webb said he hasn’t heard of any incidents since the recent spree last week.

“I think we’ve been able to stop it,” he said. “And if TikTok took (the videos) down, that’s probably a good thing.

“A great majority of our kids are great kids. They come in. They work hard. They’re involved in activities. We do have a few who make mistakes. I mean, it’s not the brightest thing … to commit a crime and then post it on TikTok. If you commit a crime in our schools, we can usually track it down with our camera system.

“They are mistakes. They are kids, and they’ll continue to make mistakes. They’ll learn from them, hopefully, and they will be better for it.”

Chicago psychologist said guilty student succumbed to peer pressure

Mark McDowell, principal at Quincy Notre Dame, said school officials are “aware of this TikTok situation … but we’ve not had to address this with students at QND.”

Representatives from Liberty High School, Payson Seymour High School, Quincy University, John Wood Community College and Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Mo., reported no “devious licks” incidents have happened in their buildings. Requests for information about “devious licks” incidents were emailed to school officials at Palmyra (Mo.) High School, Hannibal (Mo.) High School and Central High School. No responses from those schools have been received as of 8 a.m. Wednesday.

John Duffy, a clinical psychologist and family therapist in Chicago, told CNN several boys were referred to him by schools for vandalizing property. One of the students who destroyed a bathroom admitted he didn’t want to do it but succumbed to peer pressure.

The student “felt it was wrong, but he was dared to do it by a group of classmates at a party, a group he desperately wanted to be a part of,” Duffy said.

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