ST. LOUIS — Area schools reported thefts and vandalism this week amid a viral TikTok challenge in which students post videos of themselves stealing from or vandalizing school bathrooms and classrooms.
Rockwood, Mehlville, Kirkwood and St. Louis Public Schools have each reported evidence of the so-called “devious lick” challenge on their campuses. Across the country, the trend has forced schools in several states to restrict bathroom use and caused TikTok to remove videos from its platform.
The trend began earlier this month when a TikTok user posted a video showing a box of disposable masks they claimed to have been stolen from a school. Other users then started to post their own “licks,” or thefts, each trying to outdo the other.
Rockwood spokesman David Morrison said they’ve seen “minor vandalism” at all four high schools in the district, including soap dispensers being ripped off the walls.
In Kirkwood, staff have reported “a few isolated incidents” of vandalism in its secondary schools and are “reacting as necessary,” communications officer Steph Deidrick said.
Jessica Pupillo, a spokeswoman for Mehlville Public Schools, said they’ve found some vandalism and sent a letter urging parents to speak with their students about proper social media use.
“These are expensive fixes that we’ve had to investigate and follow our discipline policy on,” Pupillo said. “It does create a lot of disruption.”
TikTok announced Wednesday it would redirect everyone who searches for “deviouslick” on the site to its community guidelines “to discourage such behavior.”
We expect our community to create responsibly - online and IRL. We're removing content and redirecting hashtags & search results to our Community Guidelines to discourage such behavior. Please be kind to your schools & teachers. pic.twitter.com/mIFtsYwFRb— TikTokComms (@TikTokComms) September 15, 2021
But the redirection hasn’t stopped the videos from being posted, and it hasn’t stopped kids from stealing.
At St. Louis Public Schools, officials were looking at surveillance videos and the platform itself to catch those who may be participating in the trend, said communications director George Sells.
“We’ve seen enough to know that some are acting on this challenge,” he said. “It’s kind of interesting that kids want to commit vandalism and put it on video.”