Updated: Nov 12, 2021
The last couple of school months have been worrying for principals and teachers. Schools have been the subject of many news stories in the past couple of years because of COVID and having to adjust to distance learning; now they make headlines for a whole new reason, a TikTok trend called Devious Licks.
Photo by: Katie George
Since the beginning of the 2021 school year, students of middle and high schools have been engrossed in stealing and vandalizing school property then posting it on the social media site TikTok with #deviouslicks or #diabolicallicks. This hashtag, despite TikTok having tried to put a stop to it, seems to only be encouraging this behavior. In the last month or so TikTok has taken down more than 94,200 videos with these hashtags according to the New York Times. It is also not the only TikTok trend that is causing trouble. There is a whole list of trends being separated by the month that only increases the worry in teachers, but the trend Devious Licks was the most recent challenge for October.
From soap dispensers, ceiling tiles, to a teacher’s desk- these kids are stealing it all. Some principals have theorized that kids are acting out because they feel lost and powerless because of the stress and uncertainty of these last couple of years with COVID changing their ideas of normal life. I got in touch with a couple of teachers from middle schools and got their opinions on this whole trend. They both work at a middle school that has recently been hit with this #deviouslicks trend. They both have noticed some kids that are participating are some of the kids that have never been problems before. Melissa Haas, one of the teachers I interviewed, does not fully agree with this idea. She believes there are a few reasons that kids are participating in this trend. “I think they are very easily influenced by peer pressure. I think they think it was what everyone was doing. I also think students have less respect for their school and adults than previous generations. They have grown up with adults making excuses for them and many feel entitled to do as they please.” She feels that adults are making excuses for them again by blaming it on the pandemic. “Whether or not it is related, we need to start teaching them to make better decisions. Making excuses and pardoning their bad behaviors only makes them feel more entitled and above the rules.” While she does not fully agree with this statement, another teacher, Katie Herman, had a different perspective. “I feel the kids are emotionally stunted. They haven’t been in a school for a full five days since two years ago. They are still getting back into the routine of everything.”
Of course, any action has an equal and opposite reaction so this activity has an appropriate consequence. Anyone caught participating in this trend either caught through social media or in the act can receive the lightest sentence of in-school suspension to even getting criminal charges pressed against them (though that is only in the most severe cases).
Teachers are scared for the kids who are participating because some of them have never gotten in trouble before and were never considered troubled kids. Mrs. Haas has shared her fears with me not only concerning the kids but that she is scared for society in general. “As we watch gun violence increase, as we watch other aspects of our society declining, I fear for what the future holds. I see so many students who are not motivated to do school work. They really don't care to better themselves and it will really affect their future.” However, between TikTok taking down the videos, and the punishments, the kids are receiving the message but it does not seem to be getting across. Herman has some ideas to stop this once and for all. “We have to retrain kids to go to school and what is appropriate in public. We also could have eased in a bit more with the school. These kids went from fully online then two years later, they are fully in person. On top of that, our culture needs to change because this is not acceptable.”