School administrators and law enforcement are warning about the "devious lick" challenge on TikTok, which encourages students to show off recordings of themselves stealing and destroying items in schools.
The “lick,” a slang term for theft, often includes miniscule items such as soap and hand sanitizer, but can range to more serious items like toilet seats, school signs and even fire alarms.
“(TikTok) has its good and its bad like the rest of social media. If you’re learning dance moves or cooking there’s lots of good videos,” Morgan County Sheriff's Office public information officer Mike Swafford in Decatur, Alabama, told TODAY. “In our line of work, we often see the bad side of social media and this is one of them.”
One TikTok user posted a video featuring a group of students sitting on an allegedly stolen bench. The post has been viewed 3.8 million times. Other videos on the popular video-sharing site show destroyed bathrooms with broken down stalls and torn down ceilings exposing pipes and insulation; another video shows how one school is even zip-tying hallway clocks to prevent theft.
TikTok is redirecting content, hashtags, and search results regarding the challenge to their community guidelines. The TikTok communications team posted a tweet this week asking users to “please be kind to your schools & teachers.”
At Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon, California, two boy’s bathrooms have been declared out of service due to vandalism stemming from the challenge, NBC Bay Area reports. The school district notified parents that toilets were clogged and mirrors were torn from walls as a part of the challenge.
"I kind of thought it was a funny trend until it happened at our school," Landon Edmond, a student at Dougherty Valley High School, told NBC Bay Area.
Swartz Creek Middle School in Michigan posted a warning to parents via Facebook, saying urinals and sinks were being damaged. “Any student caught participating in this behavior will be suspended from school, charged with repairs and could be charged criminally with malicious destruction of property,” it reads.
Polk County public schools in central Florida have also experienced vandalism which appears to be related to the TikTok challenge. “Although the damage has been minor, we take these incidents seriously,” Jason Geary, director of communications for the school district, told TODAY. “We work with law enforcement in each case. Any students responsible will also be disciplined in accordance with our student code of conduct.”
Swafford pleaded with kids to sit out this challenge.
“What kids don’t understand is that everything has a cost and a value," he said. "They’re playing with fire. Once all of that hits a certain dollar amount you could hit a felony.”
The popularity and warnings about the devious licks challenge come just a few weeks after TikTok banned search results for the dangerous milk crate challenge, which left people with broken wrists and other injuries after failing to climb a pyramid-shaped stack of milk crates. The challenge, which reached across other platforms like Facebook and Twitter, was criticized for putting unnecessary strain on healthcare providers and local emergency rooms as the COVID delta variant surged.