Devious Licks Cause Schoolwide Destruction

TikTok creators have challenged teens to steal from their schools. The trend started showing up at Dunbar last week.

Four+of+the+six+boys+bathrooms+at+PLD+have+been+closed+after+more+than+a+week+of+daily+acts+of+destruction+and+theft.

Kate Patrick

Four of the six boys’ bathrooms at PLD have been closed after more than a week of daily acts of destruction and theft.

By Ella Williams, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School - KY

A national TikTok trend has some students vandalizing their schools, and it started impacting Fayette County Public Schools this past week. The trend is a prank called “Devious Licks” which encourages students to steal items like soap dispensers from their schools. The term “licks” means thefts, and they are considered more devious the bigger they are.

Some students have gone so far as to steal projectors straight from the ceiling. Others focus on smaller items like hand sanitizer and tissues.

Many teachers and parents are concerned about their students, prompting TikTok to announce that it will remove videos associated with the trend. A spokesperson said TikTok doesn’t allow content that “promotes or enables criminal activity.”

A popular TikTok, which got over 2.3 million likes in under a week before it was taken down, had creator @jadenflick stating “Only 2 weeks into school and got this absolute devious lickk [sic].”

This trend has been moving its way across the nation and recently appeared in Lexington middle and high schools.

Dunbar’s head custodian, Joe Harberson, said that the district custodial supervisor for Fayette County told him that the issue was districtwide. “He wasn’t surprised that we were experiencing this at Dunbar,” Harberson said.

Senior Nick Overstreet said that he was surprised the TikTok prank was happening at Dunbar until he heard that it was happening at Lafayette High School, too.

Overstreet agreed it was initially funny, but he said the bathrooms being shut down is an inconvenience. “It affects me now,” he said. “I have to go further away to get to an open bathroom.”

Junior Joshua Drooking said that he’s annoyed by the bathroom closures, but he is also annoyed by the incidents. “It’s kinda weird,” he said. “I’d like to just use the bathroom in peace.”

Dunbar custodians have been replacing broken and stolen hand sanitizer and soap dispensers in boys’ bathrooms. (Kate Patrick)

Many students, even if they’re not using the boys’ bathroom, feel the same disappointment in their peers.

Senior Allie Barnes said that she saw the trend on TikTok, but didn’t realize it had arrived at Dunbar until the announcement over the intercom that said the boys’ bathrooms would be closed and locked.

“It went too far,” said freshman Sam Long. “It probably costs thousands of dollars and I feel bad about that.” He also said that he’s worried about the bathrooms being closed. “I’m worried about long lines,” he said.

He said that he wasn’t sure, though, what else the administration could have done. “It was a strong choice,” he said, “but I can see why they did it.”

Associate principal Tony Blackman said that the administration gave the decision a lot of thought, but that because the problem was ongoing and widespread, he felt it was the best move.

“Kids are stuffing things like T-shirts and doorstops in the toilets and clogging them,” he said. “The flooding especially causes significant problems because there are only four plumbers available in the district to service 67 schools.

Not only are students affected, but also staff members like custodians. Dunbar is currently understaffed in custodian positions.

“There are nine positions, and we have four filled right now,” Blackman said. “Last week they had to stay until midnight working overtime for three shifts in a row.”

Many of the acts of theft have turned into acts of vandalism, making the boys’ bathroom unusable.

“…someone stuffed a full roll of toilet paper in the toilet…and then proceeded to break the toilet paper dispenser,” Harberson said. “…hand sanitizers, soap dispensers, toilet paper dispensers, and paper towel dispensers are being ripped off of the wall.”

Not only are students removing essential bathroom utilities, but they have also started writing graffiti on the walls, and in one instance, spreading feces on the wall.

Students need to understand that they are overworking custodians and teachers. We need essential workers, and they don’t deserve to get treated like that.”

— Tony Blackman, Associate Principal

“It’s not just punitive,” Mr. Blackman said about the vandalism trend. “Students need to understand that they are overworking custodians and teachers. We need essential workers, and they don’t deserve to get treated like that.”

He also emphasized that Dunbar is already short-handed as a staff.

“We only have the manpower we have,” he said.

Custodian Kelley Rogers said that she thinks the “whole situation is silly,” especially since one of the items being stolen is soap dispensers. “It’s a pandemic,” she said. “Students have to be able to wash their hands.”

Harberson agrees, adding that the last thing a school needs during a pandemic is to be without necessary cleaning and sanitizing products.

Freshman Beatriz Bezerra said that she thinks the trend is stupid. She said that boys need to mature. “We’re not in middle school anymore.”

On Sept. 15, Principal Rains announced that students who are caught vandalizing property will be recommended for expulsion.

At this time, no incidents have occurred in the girls’ bathrooms.

This story was originally published on The Lamplighter on September 15, 2021.