Schools suffer from bathroom vandalism TikTok trend

The ‘devious licks’ trend began on TikTok as students competed to acquire the most obscure items from their school. Competitors took a variety of items from bathrooms and classrooms and dramatically revealed them to a trending sound on the app.  Wakefield High School was not immune to this vandalism through the month of September. 

Ella Romano, senior class president, shared her perspective on the trend.

“At first, it was kind of funny,” Romano said. “It quickly turned into something kind of crazy, mean and disrespectful to schools all around the country and world.” 

Missing soap and paper towel dispensers are hallmarks of the TikTok trend. (Staff Photo by Kaylee Jacobs)

Wakefield schools were not excluded from the challenge. Soap and paper towel dispensers were taken from multiple bathrooms. One student even removed a sink from the wall. 

The trend spread across age groups. Schools around the country have suspended, expelled, and even pressed charges against students caught participating. Wakefield Middle School suffered broken pipes and resorted to restricting bathroom access until staff supervision is available. 

Malik Bazell, Wakefield High School principal, explained how he found out about the trend. 

“Someone informed me that [there] was a trend on TikTok called ‘devious licks,’ ‘diabolical licks,’ something like that,” Bazzell said. “I looked at it and noticed that we were having an increase in the amount of vandalism than we usually see and began to make the association between the two.”

As a result, the high school enforced a new policy. Students must log their time going in and out of the bathroom and provide a description of any damage. 

“It’s inconvenient for everyone. The bathroom policy is annoying, but hopefully, it will stop everything that’s happening overall,” Romano said.

Additionally, schools are suffering from underfunding due to COVID-19. The lack of hygienic products in bathrooms raises concerns about cleanliness in schools during a pandemic. Staff and students alike are concerned about the wait time for replacements and repairs. 

Beth Keefer, assistant principal, explained her worries about this. 

“I don’t want us to start going to a school that looks run down. We can’t repair [the damage],” Keefer said. “There’s no tear down the bathroom fund that we can pull from. I want people to realize that they’re impacting others and making school less pleasant for everyone.” 

I want people to realize that they’re impacting others and making school less pleasant for everyone”

— Keefer

While some videos have been outed as fakes, others are very real. The highest watched videos had millions of likes, comments and shares. Consequently, TikTok banned the majority of tags related to the trend and issued warnings to users that any related content will be removed from the app. 

“What’s concerning about it is the destructive nature,” Keefer said. “There’s a difference between doing something that’s silly and doing something that’s damaging.” 

Since the trend began on TikTok, some are worried about the negative and harmful effects of social media and peer pressure. 

Teachers use bathroom sign in and out forms to help track bathroom vandalism. (Staff Photo by Kaylee Jacobs)

“I think to some degree [social media] can be a positive tool and help students be exposed to information and ideas that they aren’t normally exposed to. However, it can be a very negative influence in the same way,” Bazzell said.

Coleman Rambo, senior and president of the Wakefield chapter of National Honor Society, also commented on this. 

“I think it’s so popular because people are trying to get attention,” Rambo said. “Having a year at home and finally coming back to school, students can take advantage of being back.”

As the challenge dies down, staff and students are hopeful that our schools will be treated with respect as students continue to reintegrate into school. 

In spite of the ‘devious licks’ damage,  some students are putting a positive spin on the trend and are calling it ‘angelic yields.’ These videos consist of students cleaning toilets and buying items like bar soaps to restock school bathrooms. 

 “I believe the school will do the right thing,” Keefer said.  “I believe that the vast majority of students are not engaging in this and are not supportive.”