MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Devious licks, also know as nefarious, dastardly, or diabolical licks is a viral trend on the social media platform TikTok that is concerning Monongalia Co. educators.
The trend encourages students to post videos of themselves vandalizing or stealing school property, usually from the bathroom. This has caused thousands of dollars in damages to school property. Superintendent of Monongalia Co. Schools Dr. Eddie Campbell said this trend has caused “some pretty significant disruptions” in the school environment.
“When you’ve got middle school and high school restrooms that are being vandalized to the point that they’re unsafe and that they have to be closed until repairs can be conducted, you know, that’s a direct disruption to our school day, so it’s disturbing to us from that standpoint,” Campbell said.
A problem clearly exists, but Campbell said finding a solution is not easy. He said he and the school district have no means of addressing a global social media trend.
But, he said, the school district has always believed that “you control the things that you can control”. This means Mon County schools will focus on working to curb its own students’ behavior.
“And that’s to just make sure that our young people have a very clear understanding as far as their decision-making process and their involvement in these challenges,” Campbell said. “Many of these challenges that we’ve seen as possible in the coming months, you know, they’re criminal activities.”
Campbell said what may seem “innocent” or “funny” may lead to a life-altering event for students, which schools don’t want to see.
“These could become part of a student’s permanent record that they would have to share with colleges or future employers, Campbell said. “Or, worse yet, that you know there’s juvenile action taken in court.”
Campbell said the school district is also trying to communicate directly to parents to make them aware of this trend and to enlist their help in stopping it.
Getting parents involved now could help stop a growing trend that is somehow worse than “pulling a devious lick”.
The “slap a teacher” challenge is circulating on social media platforms like TikTok; it’s the challenge of the month.
There’s a new challenge for every month of the calendar year and Campbell said county schools are aware of this concerning fact.
“Thank goodness we haven’t seen it in our schools and, you know, I pray that we won’t because again, I mean, should a student strike a teacher in any manner, that will be dealt with severe consequences,” Campbell said. “You know, we will certainly view that as assault and battery.”
The superintendent said these consequences will be just, but schools do not want to reach that point.
School officials want to make it abundantly clear to students that something that seems insignificant to them can have real-world consequences. They hope this realization will deter students from acts of violence and vandalism.
All of this, Campbell said, is coming at a time when schools are trying to make up for lost time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In-person learning hasn’t even been back in full effect for a full school year and, now, there are new issues.
“But then you throw in the mix something of this nature where our bathrooms are being vandalized and, you know, we’re having to turn our attention away from what we’re doing in our classrooms to try to make sure that kids are not making poor decisions when it comes to vandalizing bathrooms so that they can post a video on TikTok and see if they get enough likes for it,” Campbell said.
At South Middle School, which has hundreds of students, most restrooms were vandalized so much that they had to be closed. The school, at some point, only had one bathroom for each gender.
Campbell said schools are scheduling children to go to the bathroom to avoid vandalism, and that’s just untenable.
So too, he said, is the financial situation that all this property damage is causing.
“These are taxpayer dollars that go into these repairs, and you’re talking about thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars,” Campbell said. “You know, the equipment is expensive. The man-hours that are going into having to make these repairs, the sacrifice of pulling maintenance people off of other jobs that they’ve been working on to get these bathrooms back up to speed, it’s a major disruption.”