Devious lick: TikTok trend torments schools across country

Sophia Bradley

Summer of 2021. About a month before school started, viral videos of teenagers stealing and vandalizing school property began taking over TikTok. New trends come and go with the majority being harmless and fun, but some dangerous or even illegal. The “devious lick” trend caught the eyes of many attention-seeking teenagers, and even impacted local schools.

Principal Lane Buban sees the direct effect social media and these types of trends have on today’s teenagers.

“Our society is so engrossed in social media that if it is out on social media, they think it is all fun and games and it’s not – it can be disruptive and it is costly,” Buban said. “Sometimes they don’t feel that because a lot of times they do the vandalism, and then they aren’t caught, and they walk away, and there are no consequences for them.”

In contrast to other schools affected by the trend, students at Bryan High were only stealing from the bathrooms. This led to the consequence of having all but two bathrooms on campus locked for one day. BHS staff, such as history teacher Kristen Runyen, were affected by this by students not being able to quickly come and go from the bathrooms.

“Personally, our classes were disrupted because of the trend,” Runyen said. “Because the bathrooms needed to be locked and were restricted to just the one in the cafeteria, students were gone from class for much longer because they needed to walk down to the open restroom and wait.”

Those that are on TikTok watched the trend go from videos to reality, and students who didn’t participate in the trend were affected by those that did. Junior Stuart Hay was one of many students who changed their opinions after seeing the effects of students stealing from the school.

“I thought that it was funny at first because it was people just taking random things in schools,” Stuart said. “But once I learned that it was being targeted towards teachers’ own properties and sanitary products, I no longer thought it was very funny. I walked into the bathroom and there was no toilet paper, paper towels, or soap in any of the bathrooms. It was pretty upsetting, especially during COVID.”

The bathrooms being locked wasn’t the only punishment that was put in place. The students who actually stole and vandalized property received much more serious consequences. Apart from the students, the school itself had to figure out how to resolve the issue of stolen bathroom products.

“Vandalism is a state jail felony,” Buban said. “It’s not a minor thing and it has pretty significant consequences, if you are caught you can go to jail. The other side of that is the restitution. We have had kids pay back money for the damage that they have done and if they don’t do that then there are other consequences like DEAP. I’ve told my custodians not to replace anything else because we don’t have the budget to support that.”

Under Texas Penal Code Section 28.03(h) criminal mischief is charged as a state jail felony if the amount of the pecuniary loss to real property or to tangible personal property is $1,500 or more but less than $20,000 and the damage or destruction is inflicted on a public or private elementary school, secondary school, or institution of higher education.

Despite the trend impacting Bryan High, the majority of students thought the trend was immature and did not participate.

“I thought it was a really dumb trend,” junior Itzury Silva-Gonzalez said. “The school already doesn’t have a lot of extra money and now they have to use even more money to fix all of the damage that was done. All that money could be going into other activities instead of being wasted going towards some student’s poor choices.”

Junior Gabriel Gomez was surprised that the viral trend impacted BHS even though he had seen several videos on TikTok from other schools.

“Social media has its good things, such as providing the capability to communicate with lots of people,” Gabriel said. “But whenever it’s used to spread false information or ideas that are not constructive then it can be harmful to the population.”

Social media is everywhere and so easily accessible nowadays that anyone can pick up on trends and follow everyone else. 

“I think we need to do a better job educating our children and our students,” Buban said. “As much as I sometimes want all social media to go away, I know it’s not going anywhere and we are going to have to live with it. I think we might need to provide education about how to navigate through it and not get stuck in the negative.”

The police have been involved in several of the cases related to the “devious lick” trend and encourage students to think before they act.

“Some of the things listed on the calendar of the events are more serious than what has happened in September and some of them will definitely go on their transcripts and affect their futures,” school resource unit sergeant Jerrett Williams said. “We would prefer to never put handcuffs on any student and if they could help us achieve that, the whole community would be better.”

Officers realize that it can be difficult for teenagers to think about long term plans, but they hope they realize that each decision they make can impact their future.

“Each one of us has our own goals in life,” Williams said. “Whenever we are faced with any sort of social media trend or peer pressure we have to keep those goals in mind. Petty things can get in the way of future college transcripts or anything else a student may want to accomplish in the future.”