TikTok’s Latest Craze: Stealing Stuff From School

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Students are taking things similar soap dispensers, occurrence alarms and bath mirrors. TikTok and educators are trying to halt it, but it’s gone viral.

Restrooms astatine  the MacArthur High School successful  the North East Independent School District successful  San Antonio. The territory  is making students — and their families — wage  hundreds of dollars successful  damages to each   school, according to the district.
Credit...North East Independent School District

Sept. 17, 2021, 2:50 p.m. ET

Teenagers are acting retired — and their precocious schools are the victims.

It’s each connected TikTok. Missing are soap dispensers, bath mirrors, insubstantial towel holders, occurrence alarms and adjacent a teacher’s table — thing that tin beryllium swiped from schoolhouse and past revealed successful a TikTok video, with the hashtag #deviouslicks.

In the past period oregon so, TikTok has hosted adjacent to 94,200 akin videos nether #deviouslicks, oregon #diabolicallicks, according to the website Know Your Meme. The hashtag besides seems to person encouraged much superior vandalism, with students taking ceiling tiles, hand-railings, toilets and bath stalls.

To schoolhouse administrators, the thefts are not what they privation to woody with now, conscionable weeks into the caller schoolhouse year, with the microorganism and learning nonaccomplishment and different pressures bearing down. And to immoderate societal watchers, the inclination is simply a sign, perhaps, of what teenagers are feeling, astir the disruptions and powerlessness successful their lives.

Schools from California to Michigan to Georgia are cracking down. There person been suspensions, transgression charges and restitution orders. There are bans connected bath breaks. And determination person been warnings.

TikTok is besides trying to halt the inclination by deleting the contented and redirecting hashtags and hunt results to its Community Guidelines page, according to a spokesperson. But arsenic of Thursday, tens of thousands of videos tin inactive beryllium recovered nether adaptations of the archetypal hashtag.

The inclination seems to person started connected Sept. 1, erstwhile a TikTok idiosyncratic shared a video, revealing a container of disposable masks successful his backpack.

The hashtag: “absolutely devious lick.” There were much than 239,000 views.

Days later, different TikTok video was posted, this 1 of manus sanitizer, with the aforesaid hashtag.

This time, determination were 7.2 cardinal views.

At Takoma Park Middle School, extracurricular of Washington, D.C., schoolhouse officials discovered respective vandalized bathrooms conscionable days aft schoolhouse began connected Aug. 30. On Tuesday, the schoolhouse began locking bathrooms successful the five-minute play betwixt classes arsenic portion of its caller “monitoring plan.”

“It is our knowing that this inappropriate behaviour apt stemmed from a ‘challenge’ promoted done assorted societal media platforms, peculiarly Tik-Tok,” the principal, Erin L. Martin, wrote successful an email sent to families connected Wednesday.

At slightest 10 precocious schools successful the Pasco County Schools territory successful Land O’ Lakes, Fla., are reporting stolen soap dispensers, signs and a torn seat limb that was shoved down a toilet, according to the district.

“We are trying to person students that this is not a prank, it’s vandalism,” Stephen Hegarty, the territory spokesman, said. “It’s perchance a transgression behavior, and it’ll beryllium a truly atrocious time erstwhile we place it.”

The territory already disciplined a fistful of students; the punishment includes suspension and transgression charges for theft and vandalism.

“We are truly scratching our heads implicit respective things,” Mr. Hegarty said. “Why station thing connected societal media that volition get you successful occupation with the law? And wherefore destruct things, astatine your ain school, which volition effect successful an inconvenience for everyone?”

For Amanda Brennan, the elder manager of trends for the integer selling bureau XX Artists, the reply mightiness beryllium the pandemic. After much than a twelvemonth of shutdowns and virtual schooling, students, who are present returning to schools for the archetypal time, whitethorn conscionable beryllium looking for a mode to rebel.

“It makes consciousness to spot kids stealing things due to the fact that it feels similar a powerfulness play,” Ms. Brennan said. “You consciousness almighty implicit these systems that you whitethorn not person felt arsenic if you had a batch of power over.”

Ms. Brennan said different platforms, similar Reddit oregon Tumblr, person besides hosted communities wherever radical would springiness tips connected stealing, oregon stock what they stole.

Brendan Gahan, a spouse and main societal serviceman for the integer bureau Mekanism, said #deviouslicks were similar elder pranks earlier the net age, arsenic good arsenic different net antics — similar “gallon smashing,” (people signaling themselves destroying beverage cartons successful market stores) and “stealing LeBron’s head,” (from the artifact enactment fig of the hoops subordinate LeBron James).

“It’s each teen rebellion, but it’s conscionable connected a antithetic medium,” Mr. Gahan said. “There’s thing innately charismatic astir conflict, and it being rebellious. TikTok allows radical to share, and display, that behavior, connected a standard that’s not truly been disposable before.”

But this rebellion is costly for schools.

The North East Independent district, successful San Antonio, is making students — and their families — wage hundreds of dollars successful damages to each school, according to the district. The territory hasn’t ruled retired pressing charges for much superior thefts.

According to a territory spokeswoman, Aubrey Chancellor, 5 retired of the six precocious schools successful the territory are reporting thefts ranging from stolen soap dispensers to occurrence extinguishers. One schoolhouse saw shattered mirrors. Custodians, and different attraction unit workers, person to cleanable up aft the students.

“Once we’ve identified the student, it’s the parents who are going to pay,” Ms. Chancellor said. “It’s not monetary. It’s the rule of the matter.”

Both Ms. Brennan and Mr. Gahan uncertainty that either TikTok oregon schoolhouse districts volition beryllium capable to halt the trend, likening immoderate efforts to the Streisand effect, meaning that the much authorities effort to deter students from stealing, the much they really promote it.

“I’m not saying schools shouldn’t nonstop retired these notices,” Mr. Gahan said. “But it mightiness beryllium amended to deprive it of oxygen, than acknowledge, oregon adjacent propulsion against it.”

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