Pierre public schools are dealing with the aftermath of a social media challenge that encourages nuisance behavior, including theft and property damage.
There was the cinnamon challenge, which encouraged participants to attempt to swallow a spoonful of cinnamon without water as cameras rolled. Then gallon smashing, in which people around the world filmed themselves breaking gallons of milk against grocery store floors.
From there social media challenges progressed into renaissance. The Harlem Shake, Gangnam Style and bottle flipping took hold. Vine molded stars before eventually yielding to TikTok, which became the influencer’s platform of choice as the third decade of the 21st century began.
And it is TikTok that brings you the latest Internet trend — “Devious Licks.” Unlike the fun and innocent cinnamon challenge, “Devious Licks” encourage students to steal anything they can find in their schools, usually from the bathrooms. And it is “Devious Licks” that led to headaches for Georgia Morse Middle School Principal Kyley Cumbow last week as school soap and toilet paper dispensers were damaged while red dye mysteriously appeared in the boys’ bathrooms on all three floors.
“We’ve had here, just in the last week, we’ve had three incidents in the boys’ bathroom and two in the girls’ that we’re aware of,” Cumbow told the Capital Journal. “Damage to the soap dispensers, tearing them off the walls. Luckily, until just this last Friday, none of them were damaged.”
Cumbow said another incident involved a student stealing two soap dispensers and a toilet paper roll.
“All for the glory of TikTok,” she said with a laugh.
Cumbow said the Georgia Morse school resource officer sometimes monitors social media, but that so far students haven’t been putting their escapades on their own TikTok accounts.
“But it’s still just, I guess, the excitement, kind of prestige of following suit of what’s on TikTok,” Cumbow said. “We have tried to share this with parents, and that’s kind of a frustration, too, because it sounds so silly, but last Friday, (assistant principal Brandon) Lowery and myself probably spent three, four hours dealing with vandalism in the bathroom when we could be doing other things.”
Cumbow didn’t say if any GMMS students have been suspended in connection with the trend, but noted that vandalism does come with a suspension, and that the school is considering such incidents vandalism. Students in other states have already seen much more serious consequences, as “Devious Licks” has led to multiple arrests.
Orlando NBC affiliate WESH reported Friday that Bartow, Florida, police arrested a 15-year-old high school student after he damaged a soap dispenser and stole another. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported the same day that eight Boone County, Kentucky, students faced charges of vandalism or theft in connection with the trend.
Elsewhere in Pierre School District, T.F. Riggs High School Principal Kevin Mutchelknaus said there has been only one incident in his school that he has been made aware of.
“We had a couple (soap dispensers) that were taken off the wall and just left there, but I don’t think they were even damaged, they were just left,” Riggs Assistant Principal Rob Coverdale said. “And I think there was one that maybe disappeared, got out of the bathroom. But I think that’s it.”
Mutchelknaus said there hasn’t been communication with students warning them not to take part in the trend because the effect on the school has been so small thus far.
“I think sometimes we feel like if you’re not having a big problem with it, catch the small problem and if you say something, sometimes that creates more of a challenge, if you will, to kids to go ahead and do it,” Mutchelknaus said. “So we haven’t sent out any messages yet. You know, if it started becoming more of a problem, then we would send some sort of message to kids and parents and let them know, if you get caught, here’s what’s going to happen. So, no, we haven’t done that, yet.”
GMMS has communicated with parents in the hopes of raising awareness about social media influences.
“We’ve been trying to communicate with our parents, and I think, you know, this fad is going to come and go, and then something else is going to be replaced by it, but I think it’s very important for parents to understand how much of an influence social media has on our kiddos, and especially our young kids,” Cumbow said. “A lot of the apps that they use, and online communication, technically they’re not even old enough to use it.”
According to the TikTok website, full users are required to be 13 years old. Younger users are placed in the TikTok for Younger Users experience, which includes “additional privacy and safety protections designed specifically for this audience.”
“But I would be one to argue that the maturity level is not there for them to use many of the things that are online right now,” Cumbow said. “Not only are we dealing with this TikTok fad but, I mean, the amount of reports that Mr. Lowery and I deal with as far as kids being mean on social media, that’s a constant and it has been for the last few years. And it’s just an area where kids speak things and say things on social media that they would never in a million lifetimes say to a person face-to-face. The parent really needs to be involved with what the student is on on social media.”
Cumbow cited ways parents can get involved to keep their students from getting involved with such trends.
“If you’re not taking your child’s phone and having them go through what apps they’re using or if you don’t have a parent monitoring system that tells you what apps they’re on, that would be my first set of advice for parents is know what they’re on, know what they’re using and how they’re using it,” she said. “They’re the parent and more than likely that is their property, as in the iPhone, and so they need to be in charge of what’s going on on that.”