Missing soap dispensers at Nina Otero Community School are seen amid an uptick of vandalism nationwide.

A student walks into the first floor bathroom of Nina Otero Community School expecting cleanliness, but instead is greeted by desolate bathrooms: not a soap dispenser in sight, the chipped remains of paper towel dispensers after being pried off the wall, unusable sinks with missing handles. This property damage is not an anomaly, there has been a sharp increase in national vandalism over the past month. You can blame it on the “Devious Lick,” a new TikTok trend that administrators worry could be costing schools hundreds of dollars in repairs.

As with any fad, trends on TikTok are short-lived and ever-changing. With such a wide variety of content, certain sounds and video styles become popular, circulate for about a week, then quickly die when app users become tired of seeing the trend pop up on their “For You” page. Although there have been many absurd infatuations on TikTok, the “Devious Lick” trend is one causing great destruction to high schools and middle schools.

“Lick” is a term that has become common among teenagers and pre-teens, and is described by online open-source website Urban Dictionary as “a successful type of theft which results in an acceptable, impressive and rewarding payday for the protagonist.”

“Devious Licks” started with students uploading videos to TikTok showing off items they had stolen from their classrooms. But by the start of September, pranks escalated into expensive vandalism. Encouraged by hopes of TikTok fame, some students are demolishing or taking bathroom appliances and even prying mirrors off the walls; stealing items that are intended to be unstealable.

The executive director of communications for the North East Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas, Aubrey Chancellor, told Weekend Edition that these “Devious Licks” are “very frustrating for administrators, custodians, teachers, other students and maintenance staff.” Custodians and maintenance staff spend days repairing and cleaning defaced bathrooms, while others attending school are not able to use the bathrooms being fixed.

Just as it has become increasingly prevalent nationally, the trend has gained traction in Santa Fe. In response to the escalation of “Devious Licks,” Santa Fe Public Schools administrators have put some disciplinary measures in place to discourage students from continuing this behavior. District spokesman Cody Dynarski said in an email the district is “being vigilant in providing adult supervision at all times” when students are entering areas especially prone to defacement.

He added that in cases where violations do happen, staff will review camera footage to identify the students involved.

This issue does not only impact schools, but the city’s taxpayers as well. Dynarski also stated that all damages are paid for by the state, and, therefore, are taken from taxpayers’ money. The damage can “range from a hundred dollars on up.” Funding intended for the education of middle and high school students is actually being spent repairing the damage done by pranks.

At Santa Fe Public Schools, students can receive detention or suspension for pocketing bathroom appliances. Some schools are going as far as fining the students’ families to compensate for what they stole and even calling the police in serious cases. According to the Santa Fe Public Schools Code of Conduct, the administration is supposed to “contact law enforcement” when stolen items have a “monetary value over $500.00.”

After receiving backlash for publicizing this behavior, TikTok took down all of the trend’s videos on September 15. Now when the term “Devious Lick” is typed into the search bar, the screen reads “No results found” in bold letters, stating that the content violates community guidelines. The company took to Twitter to release a statement claiming they want their “community to create responsibility — online and IRL [in real life].”

With restrictions being placed on posting these videos, TikTok hopes students, teachers, administrators and maintenance staff will see a sharp decrease in the school vandalism that has been rampant over the past few weeks.

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