Alaska schools are dealing with acts of vandalism related to a trend popularized on the social media platform TikTok, dubbed “devious licks.”
The trend, which is also being seen in schools across the U.S., encourages students to vandalize and steal school property, from boxes of face masks to soap dispensers.
Anchorage School District secondary director Kersten Johnson said the district has had over 75 “licks,” from soap and toilet paper dumped on the floor to a sink ripped from the wall.
“Not all of the incidents are causing damage but they are definitely causing a mess,” Johnson said. “It’s really just distracting us from what we’re there to do.”
Johnson said charges are being filed with the Anchorage Police Department when damage is “significant enough.”
The website Urban Dictionary defines “lick” as “a successful type of theft which results in an acceptable, impressive and rewarding payday for the protagonist.”
Johnson encourages families to have a conversation about the long-term consequences of “something that seems like a silly prank to teenagers, but isn’t.”
“Removing, misusing, destroying, defacing, or mutilating objects or materials belonging to the school, school personnel, or other persons is prohibited student conduct,” said Anchorage School District spokeswoman Lisa Miller, adding that acts of vandalism and destruction “are subject to disciplinary actions.”
Pegge Erkeneff, a spokeswoman with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, said one middle school and one high school in the district have had to address “licks.”
At Soldotna High School, soap dispensers were stolen, bathroom stalls were kicked off the wall and toilet paper dispensers were broken, she said. At Skyview Middle School, paper towel and soap dispensers were broken in two restrooms.
The Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District is also warning students against participating in the trend.
On Sept. 15, Colony High School Principal Brendon McMahon wrote on the school’s Facebook page that the school has told students about the potential “legal and/or financial ramifications” they could face for participating in the trend, which he called “disturbing.”
“This too shall pass, like many other destructive social media trends,” McMahon wrote.
Jillian Morrissey, spokeswoman for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District, said the high school “wanted to ensure that the school community understood this would be treated as vandalism.”
Morrissey did not immediately provide details on whether Colony High School or other Mat-Su schools had seen incidents of vandalism or theft related to the trend.