‘Devious licks’ social media challenge prompts vandalism in DC-area schools

The latest back-to-school trend, courtesy of TikTok, is leaving school administrators across the country frustrated, including some in the D.C. area.

The “devious licks” challenge recently went viral on social media, inspiring students to steal or vandalize school property and post their exploits on TikTok.

Much of the vandalism and thefts have occurred in school bathrooms — a trend that prompted the principal of a Prince William County, Virginia, high school to warn that students will be disciplined for their actions.

“Last Friday, we experienced significant vandalism in our boys’ bathrooms, which included removing soap bags from soap dispensers to place them in the toilet, stuffing the toilets with paper towels, throwing trash throughout the bathroom, and stealing items from the bathrooms,” Lisamarie Kane, principal of Osbourn Park High School in Manassas, wrote in a letter Monday.

She said the school had to close some of the bathrooms but will reopen them Tuesday “with an extensive monitoring plan to help prevent this vandalism from occurring.”

Diana Gulotta, spokeswoman for Prince William County Schools, told WTOP that any students involved would be disciplined according to the county’s code of behavior.

Damage has also been reported at Falls Church High School and Rocky Run Middle School in Fairfax County.

“We are aware of several incidents of damage to school property related to a troubling TikTok challenge. Disciplinary action has and will be taken against those who participate in this behavior as part of our Students Rights and Responsibilities,” Fairfax County Public Schools spokeswoman Julie Moult said in an email.

Loudoun County Public Schools said it had some minor incidents related to the challenge but that there was no substantial damage.

D.C. Public Schools told WTOP that it has not seen any incidents. WTOP has contacted Montgomery and Prince George’s County schools in Maryland for comment.

Across the country, some students have been arrested and charged in connection to the challenge. Administrators are also warning that students could be suspended or forced to pay restitution for any damage they cause.

A spokesperson for TikTok said the social media platform was removing “devious licks” content and redirecting hashtags to its guidelines to discourage the behavior and that it doesn’t allow content that “promotes or enables criminal activities.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Anna Gawel

Anna Gawel joined WTOP in 2020 and works in both the radio and digital departments. Anna Gawel has spent much of her career as the managing editor of The Washington Diplomat, which has been the flagship publication of D.C.’s diplomatic community for over 25 years.

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