A paper towel dispenser stands empty after being ravaged by students in the latest internet challenge. / Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Shaun Lucas

In the last year and a half, I feel the line between reality and fiction has vanished. I continue to read what I believe are satirical headlines, only to realize those words were sourced to a national news outlet. This pandemic has shown that people will commit confusing acts, especially when social media is involved as with the “devious licks” TikTok challenge.

“Devious licks” refers to the act of high school students stealing and/or vandalizing school property, bragging to others by showing off their “devious lick” online. Some of the more notable items stolen include sinks, soap dispensers, and even cases of entire toilets stolen.

Yes, during the limited downtime of a school day, students are removing water-filled, fully installed bathroom appliances because of a social media trend. Again, this is not satirical in any way.

I became invested in the trend in the same “no, this cannot be real” vein as other pandemic headlines. I then found out through friends at my old high school that my alma mater was struck with a few of these licks. These posts included walls with missing soap dispensers, one picture showing a soap dispenser placed inside a toilet.

Hearing the phone recording of my old principal saying the words “devious licks” over a loudspeaker announcement and demanding the licks to stop has perhaps been the peak following the trend so far.

I, of course, am not condoning these licks in any way: vandalism on this level is expensive for schools, and replacing appliances requires extra maintenance. Also, the overworked and underappreciated custodians are left cleaning up the messes post-lick. 

Is there a chance that a handful of Tik Tok pulling school property out of backpacks are faked? Certainly, but there are too many well-documented licks out there to just ignore the trend. As for those doing the licks, punishment has since reached levels higher than expolsion and suspension: in Bartow, Florida, a 15-year-old was arrested for vandalizing his school’s soap dispenser, according to The Guardian.

Even students who did not do anything are being punished. Also at my old high school, bathroom trips are to be 5 minutes maximum, with phones to be left in the classroom. Many other schools are also banning licked bathrooms, leading to limited bathrooms in only certain parts of the building.

“Be careful what you post on social media” seems to be a dying sentiment for both children and adults. Do people not understand how hard it is to deny committing a crime when one posts video evidence of it on their public accounts? Is the inevitable punishment really worth some laughs and clicks?

It is frightening to see social media motivate students to commit theft, let alone theft as difficult as uninstalling a urinal and dragging it home.

It has been a hard pandemic for everyone, and I am just glad I can be on campus in any capacity. There is no reason to add more rules beyond COVID-19 regulations. Hopefully, this trend ends soon before my old principal has to announce that she wants her car returned to the parking lot.