Viral ‘devious licks’ TikTok challenge encourages kids to steal from school

Just last month, a viral theme on the social media platform TikTok led to widespread damage in schools across the country. Known as the "devious licks" challenge, it encouraged students to record themselves stealing or vandalizing school property, then posting the video online. Our Student Reporting Labs network asked young people and school staff about its effects on school communities.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    It was just last month that a theme went viral on the social media platform TikTok, leading to widespread damage in schools across the country.

    Known as the Devious Licks challenge, it has encouraged students to record a video of themselves stealing or vandalizing school property, everything from bathroom soap dispensers and exit signs to fire extinguishers, and amounting to untold thousands of dollars' worth of damage, and then posting the video on TikTok.

    Our Student Reporting Labs network asked young people And school staff about this trend and the effects on school communities.

  • Andrea Salazar Lopez, Student:

    The first time I saw the Devious Lick challenge was on my For You page. This kid was running through the halls with this principal's car door. I was like, what's happening? What's going on? What are people trying to prove with doing this?

  • Alex Helton, Teacher:

    My classroom had pretty much been destroyed. There was like posters tore off the wall. The kids had taken books that I'd personally bought. And they took the books and they, like, took them, took a paper cutter, and, like, cut the covers and pages of the books.

  • Mohammed Musaed, Student:

    A couple kids decided it would be funny to steal A fire hydrant.

  • Mason Pantel, Student:

    At my school, people are stealing the most obscure things, like exit signs, stall doors.

  • Dakota Hendren, Student:

    Well, at my school, I know that some people have taken soap dispensers, and paper towel dispensers. And, really recently, I heard that someone tried to take a water fountain.

  • Elizabeth Jefferson Student:

    I have to bring hand sanitizer because the second-floor soap for the girls' restroom is gone.

  • Kennedy Scott, Student:

    Our school has decided to close the bathrooms down and only open one bathroom for each gender, so that they can monitor the bathroom.

  • Jonathan Riggins, Student:

    I like a fun time, but this is pretty insane.

  • Alex Helton:

    To be completely honest, from the teacher perspective, that just kill's a person's spirit, to see that level of disrespect.

  • Lucas Yoo, Student:

    I kind of wanted to participate in it, but at the same time, I know the consequences that come with it. And taking things from my school would probably not be the best idea, because there's a lot of punishments.

  • Clarissa Mack, Security Guard:

    Students that are participating in Devious Licks, they are receiving suspensions all the way up to expulsions.

  • Quinn Blackwell, Student:

    No matter the trend, no matter if it's vandalism or theft or doing a dance, I think kids will do what they can to get their five seconds of fame.

  • Tyanna Nelson, Student:

    One person's going to do something and they get viral from it or something, so then somebody else is going to want to follow along.

  • Man:

    It'll die off within a couple weeks, but the impact and the destruction, it's going to last.

  • Joseph Rodriguez, Technology Coordinator:

    Once you start liking stuff, you guys hear the term algorithm thrown out a lot, but, basically, it just feeds you more of what you're already interested in and what you like.

    So, essentially, it's just going to keep going and keep happening because kids are going to see more of it and think, oh, this is going to make it good. This is all I'm seeing now.

  • Andrea Salazar Lopez:

    Schools already have a small budget to begin with to be spending money on fixing damages. If this is the way we want to protest the school system, it's making it really hard for people to take us seriously.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Taking a trend too far, and it's good to see so many students recognize that.

    Meantime, a U.S. Senate committee will hold a hearing tomorrow on TikTok and other social media apps, such as Instagram and Snapchat, where lawmakers will examine the pressures and risks for children, teens and young adults, who are increasingly using these apps.

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