Move over, milk crate challenge, there’s a newer, stupider way to ruin your life.
One week after TikTok confirmed that it had blocked content and hashtags and removed searches related to “devious licks” — the emerging trend that encourages students to swipe mundane objects from their schools, including fire extinguishers, soap dispensers, and film projectors — USA Today reported that police across the U.S. have begun arresting and charging students accused of participating in the associated acts of vandalism and theft.
In Kentucky’s Boone County, where the trend has apparently been particularly pernicious, the sheriff’s office announced Friday that eight juveniles from a smattering of schools across the district had been hit with charges related to the trend, including four who received vandalism charges and another four who were charged with theft.
The criminal charges prompted a formal response from the Boone County Schools District, which wrote in a letter to parents that it planned to adopt a zero-tolerance policy going forward to deal with students who opt to swipe or damage school property.
“This behaviour will not be tolerated and will be dealt with accordingly. Destruction of school property will result in school discipline being applied to the fullest extent, including paying restitution for property that has been damaged or destroyed and possibly being criminally charged by our local police or sheriff’s department,” the district wrote.
In neighbouring Ohio, the Oak Hills Local School District was also forced to send out a letter to parents last week warning that students would be recommended for criminal charges if they were caught doing any devious licking.
“Students in several of our buildings have been caught committing these thefts and acts of vandalism and are being disciplined,” the district wrote. “In addition to school consequences, students are subject to criminal charges and will be required to pay restitution for any damages incurred.”
Over in central Florida, CBS Tampa Bay reported that Alicia Manautou, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson, recently issued a statement to say that, “If you’re in Polk County and you choose to participate in this particular TikTok challenge, this ‘Devious Lick Challenge,’ you’re also choosing to be arrested.”
While older adults always seem eager to draw up some tired thesis about social media and its addling effects on the fragile minds of “the youth,” the funniest thing about platforms like TikTok is that they more or less just amplify teenagers behaving the same way teenagers have always behaved since the dawn of time. As anyone who had that one dumb friend in college who used to lift the “employees must wash hands” signs from McDonald’s bathrooms or plates from the dining hall can attest to, young people just love to steal and be dumb, and they love it even more when they can brag about it to their friends.
But once you start messing with the taxpayer’s hard-earned dollar, you’re going to start ruffling some feathers, which is apparently exactly what these teens have done. The devious lickage has apparently wound its way to the halls of Congress, where Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who chairs a Senate consumer protection subcommittee, called upon TikTok in a Tuesday press release to do more to safeguard public establishments from the dreaded “bathroom challenge.”
“You have a responsibility to delete videos, ban users, and restrict hashtags that glorify property damage and threats to school safety to prevent this destructive behaviour from spreading,” Blumenthal wrote in a letter to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew. “While TikTok has taken steps to remove these videos, these actions were too little, too late and do not make up for the damage to schools across the country.”