Are Tik Tok Trends Destroying Local Schools? A Hype vs Reality Investigation

Makayla Hardy, Jaden Urban, and Brigid Butler report on how TikTok trends are negatively impacting student’s behavior in school environments and whether or not the situation is over exaggerated. They also find out how local schools are reacting.

TikTok’s ‘Devious Lick’ challenge is exposed all over different media platforms of students destroying school property across the country. These are screen grabs of TikToks shared on multiple sources such as Youtube and Twitter. Photo collage by Makayla Hardy.

TikTok’s ‘Devious Lick’ Challenge and Teachers Under Threat

Whether you have TikTok or not, you may have heard of one its unsettling trends known as the ‘Devious Lick’ challenge. The challenge shows students filming themselves destroying school bathrooms and sometimes stealing soap dispensers and even sinks.

“Yes, [I] have seen a lot of it happen,” said Michael Faker, a teacher at Spanish Springs High School.

“Our bathrooms have had all the soap dispensers and paper towel dispensers pulled off the walls. They stole scales and other equipment out of classrooms. Nothing that I know of out of my room. The other TikTok trend, hitting teachers, I have not seen. I did have three kids walking behind me and I heard one of them say, ‘Hit him.’ I turned and said, ‘please try that.’ They all looked shocked and scampered away. [They] studied stuff from stupid people. All a problem because the school district doesn’t demand respect. This is what happens when the school district gets too soft.”

High school students around Northern Nevada are well aware of the trend.

“The devious lick was a trend that went around on TikTok that was composed of students from all around stealing or damaging school property because they thought it was funny,” said Reno High School Senior and frequent TikTok user, Betsy Butler, the sister of one of our reporters.

There have even been some claims that have recirculated on mainstream media that teachers are being physically harassed by students due to these trends. While most of these videos are posted on TikTok then removed due to violating community guidelines, they quickly go viral and spread all over multiple social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and even get recirculated on news channels across the country, including locally.

When you search for the term ‘Devious Licks’ on TikTok a Community Guidelines and regulation pages pops up as TikTok has removed all videos with the hashtag.

Mainly Bathrooms Being Affected

“I have seen the trend on TikTok and private Snapchat stories,” Butler said. The 18-year-old enjoys using TikTok as a pastime when she is not playing basketball or studying.

“Sinks being ripped off the walls and doors being ripped off the hinges. To my understanding, I think people would jump on the sinks until torn off,” she said,

Due to the trends damaging side effects, local schools were forced to shut down bathrooms and monitor student use at the beginning of the school year.

“The last straw was the sinks being ripped off the walls. Our bathrooms were shut down for a while. It was crazy,” Butler said.

School bathrooms eventually reopened once the students responsible for the licks were dealt consequences from the schools. We weren’t able to get details of what those exact punishments were.

Reno’s local Channel 2 news KTVN reported on the TikTok challenge leading to school vandalizations.

Hype vs Reality?

There are questions though over how widespread these trends were locally and whether there is also hype making it sound worse than it really is.

Earlier this Fall, Channel 2 news covered the story of the trend in front of McQueen High School with broad statements and little specifics and evidence. “District leaders have not given too many specifics about these cases …” reporter Victor Park said during the segment.

No inside footage of the school’s bathrooms was shown and the 9th grade interviewee shared little detail of exactly what level of vandalism was taking place. “I’ve seen them take paper towel things, they’ve screwed up the sink a couple times… I can’t even walk in the bathroom to wash my hands because there’s no soap,” he said in the report.

We can’t simply jump to conclusions that our local school bathrooms are turning into what looks like complete warzones without knowing the details.

While KTVN was not able to list any specifics of this matter the report did also state: “We know of these acts happening at Damonte Ranch High School and two other middle schools.” This statement is confirmed by English teacher Patrick Nohrden at Damonte Ranch High School, but he says in certain aspects the trend is also over-hyped.

“We’ve heard a lot of stories about teachers being assaulted because of TikTok videos, but the vandalism thing is real,” he said. Patrick Norhden says that so far no students have harassed any teachers locally and if it did happen, he would’ve heard about it.

“And kids steal paper towel dispensers and then they post a photo of themselves on Facebook or something like that,” he said. “They took a lot of stuff and are tearing the bathrooms apart.”

The staff of Damonte Ranch are handling matters best they can to prevent further damage and stolen items of the school.

“We had to put people outside the bathrooms, we had to tighten up our bathroom policy. We couldn’t let anybody go 15 minutes after class started or 15 minutes before it ended. They had to sign out, we had to know who was in there,” Norhden said.

While Patrick Norhden doesn’t have TikTok, he knows enough about it for being responsible for starting these trends in the first place. It’s certainly not one of his favorite social media platforms.

“There’s a report made when somebody stole [a] laptop because that was one of the TikTok things.” Dr. Norhden says a student stole one of the school laptops and it was never returned nor did anyone find out who it was.

Principal explodes over ‘Devious Lick” trend on school intercom on a posted TikTok.

What about in Local Middle Schools?

Jason Shipman, assistant principal at Sky Ranch Middle School, has also had some experience with these trends at the newly built middle school located in Spanish Springs. The school had a handful of students a few months ago steal sanitizer soap, rip off sanitizer dispensers and break off toilet paper dispensers as well. Shipman said the incidents at their school weren’t as intense as in other schools they’ve heard about.

“Some of the local schools here had so much damage and had to shut down a lot of their restrooms,” said Shipman. “Since we are a new school, we have a lot of 21st century technology, including gender neutral bathrooms. Which includes that we have communal sinks and private stalls. So, when these incidents were occurring we could shut down a few stalls and isolate them down so we could really know who was going in and out.”

Shipman shared that they received tips from students on who was committing these acts, and some kids even fessed up to it. They were able to handle the problem in-house and they didn’t have to reach out higher up for any additional help.

“If there’s one thing I would like to add is the support we received from the parents,” said Shipman. “We had reached out to all the parents to let their kids know about the trend and to educate them what was going on and what was wrong about it. They were all on board and very helpful in the whole process.”

One of Shipman’s main focuses when addressing the students was to let them know that they didn’t look down on all of them for what a small minority of the students were doing. He didn’t want the students to feel shunned for the actions of others.

A few teachers we have reached out to have acknowledged the issue and the trend occurring in local schools, but didn’t want to be interviewed. They said they feared for copycat effects and didn’t want students to do more damage in hopes of getting publicity. In light of property damage, most schools said that this was more of a problem at the beginning of the semester, as the schools have now taken care of most of the issues with the “Devious Licks.”

Student posts photos of aftermath of ‘Devious Lick’ challenge on Twitter. Photos by @ev4n2k4.

What’s the Solution?

The Washoe County School Board is aware of the events happening in each school, but there has been very little word as to how they plan to solve this issue. “No talk from the school board,” says Norhden. After sending out multiple emails, none of the members of the Board of Trustees has responded except for one person. That member declined an interview, however, but did state that they find these trends to be quite disturbing.

“As you are likely aware a, set of monthly challenges was shared via this platform,” said Paul Lamarca, Chief Strategies Officer for Washoe County School District. “Unfortunately for our school district and districts across the nation, the first monthly challenge which revolved around property damage within schools and minor theft was posted just as students took up the challenge. As a result, several of our schools, namely middle schools, did experience disruption. To combat this schools used varying approaches which typically involved calls to parents, student assemblies, and use of social media to alert families of the challenge, to remind students of the expectations regarding acceptable school behavior, and to outline the sorts of consequences that would be meted out if students were caught engaging in such conduct. We cannot comment on specific cases, but I can share that students have been held accountable for property damage and minor theft as a result of the initial challenge.”

Although that trend may be fading out, a new wave of destruction could easily emerge.

As noted, the posted monthly challenges outlined a series of additional inappropriate behaviors including disrespectful behavior toward teachers, as well as toward fellow students.

“The school district has shared all of the monthly challenges with principals and families forewarning of the seriousness of those acts,” LaMarca said. “This preventive messaging has resulted in few instances, since the initial challenge, of disruptive student behavior relative to the TikTok challenges.”

Reynolds Sandbox report by Makayla Hardy, Jaden Urban and Brigid Butler

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The Reynolds Sandbox showcases innovative and engaging storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab.

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