The past weekend was a tumultuous one for South Forsyth High School, as some students followed the dangerous “devious lick” challenge on TikTok and vandalized the school’s bathrooms, destroying property and stealing materials.
These students did everything from stealing soap dispensers to clogging the toilets with tissues; many of them also entered teachers’ classrooms and stole class belongings such as science equipment. The perpetrators also vandalized several of the bulletin boards around school, causing several changes to South’s class transition policies.
For many teens of this generation, TikTok has generated many interesting trends within the community. From making whipped coffee during the start of the quarantine to participating in the risky milk crate challenge, there are a variety of new TikTok challenges surfacing across the internet. The latest TikTok trend, “the devious lick,” has made its way across the screens of many students and currently boasts over 10 million views on the platform.
This challenge started off with a TikTok user stealing a hand sanitizer dispenser from his school, calling it a “devious lick.” This caused a huge uptick in teenagers stealing various items from schools. Starting off with small items such as a whiteboard eraser, the challenge quickly grew to see kids stealing hand dryers, exit signs, and even entire sinks.
Mr. Samir Tartic, the school’s head custodian, spoke about how insensitive these actions were, especially during the time of COVID.
“Especially in the times of a global pandemic, getting the soap and hand sanitizer is very hard, and we’re working with our vendors tremendously every day to have that on hand,” Mr. Tartic explained. “So the [fact that] some students are not respecting that, it’s making us a little bit sad.”
These TikTok videos usually say something such as “only a month into school and I got this devious lick” as they display a variety of stolen items. While this trend seems to be popular amongst students, it puts a huge load on both the administrators and custodians.
Additionally, certain students destroyed multiple boys’ bathrooms in the school, resulting in over thousands of dollars of damage. As the school administration worked to deal with the damages, many of South’s custodians had to come in during the weekend to clean up the destruction.
“We are working hard every day to make the school ready to open the next day,” commented custodian Sonia Lopez Perez. “We just want respect, and if you need anything, you can always ask.”
Assistant Principal Brian Nelson commented on the allure of TikTok challenges like this.
“All of us get to an age where the temptation of a dare is just less motivating,” he said. “A TikTok challenge is just a big dare, and [students] need to move to a place of maturity where the positive affirmations and self-motivation are more alluring than extrinsic validation.”
Monday morning on the intercom, Assistant Principal Tom Wolff urged the students and faculty to report any evidence or accounts to the school’s anonymous “See Something, Say Something” tip line via the P3 reporting app.
Nelson commented further on the behavior saying, “I’m surprised at some of the challenges that teenagers choose to emulate. I’d advise any teenager to look at things they want to partake in and decide whether they align with your values. Are they productive or destructive? Do they build people up or tear people down?”
Even while answering questions, Mr. Nelson had to run around bathrooms making sure everything was in order and leading students. This wasn’t the only consequence of the challenge: due to the high monetary damage, several of the other activities the school had planned are now on the back burner.
The vandalism also brought the student body together to solve the issue, with several Honor societies and club presidents urging their members to report any mischief.
“A group of kids have been vandalizing the school bathrooms and causing trouble for both the admin and the janitors at school. This is extremely dangerous and harmful to the school and students,” posted National English Honor Society Communications Officer Elisabeth Moreau.
“If you know anything about the kids who did this or any information, please use the school’s “See Something, Say Something” tip line. Thank you for being upstanding members of NEHS!” Moreau added.
Additionally, in response to the event, the school administration reshaped certain school regulations in order to manage this situation. Students had to leave their backpacks and other belongings outside the bathroom. If any students needed to go to the bathroom during class, an administrator had to escort them to the nearest restroom. Even things such as sitting outside in the hallway or vending machine trips were restricted as the administration worked to find the people responsible for the destruction.
The TikTok-inspired vandalism, which has become an issue across the country, has escalated to students taking personal belongings from their peers and even teachers. This challenge serves as an example of the dangers of social media influence. Several TikTok challenges may have started as innocent jokes, but they’ve caused everything from body dysmorphia to hospitalizations to even deaths.
While no one was physically hurt in this challenge, it still had a substantial effect: the trivialization of what is, in actuality, a felony.
This event caused a huge loss not just of money but freedom, time, and mobility for both SFHS students and teachers. The administration hopes that as the perpetrators continue to be held accountable, the restrictions can be loosened; however, the bulk of this depends on the student body’s willingness to come together and address the situation.
“If anything posted as a Tiktok challenge is taken seriously, becoming part of the student body’s culture, then there needs to be a bit of a culture movement, a shared moral compass, among students,” concluded Mr. Nelson. “And maybe a moving of that needle towards a better direction.”