TikTok Trend Disrupts Smooth Start to In-Person Learning 


The most common problem caused by the “devious licks” trend on TikTok were missing soap dispensers in the bathrooms.

For the first few weeks, Longfellow was running well, and it seemed as if the school would recover from the pandemic. However, a nefarious TikTok trend called Devious Licks ruined an otherwise smooth start.

“It was such a great opening week. And it was somewhere in that 2nd and 3rd week, we started having this problem, and it was just disappointing that some of our students, a small number of students, would create that type of disruption,” said Principal Jim Patrick.

He stressed that while he was disappointed in the choices students made, he still hopes that those involved learn from those choices.

“We can always rebound from bad decisions,” he said.

Teachers, he pointed out, were already under stress getting things up and running in a new way. They had new software, a new schedule, and were focused on getting students up to speed after distance learning.

“Teachers have been through a lot of stress, and it was one more thing they had to manage,” he said. “It was one more thing all of us had to manage that didn’t directly impact you guys coming back, being safe and learning as much as you can.”

Teachers were not the only ones impacted, however. As a result of the trend, many of the boy’s bathrooms were closed. This made it harder to use the bathrooms in between classes. Boys sometimes had to traverse the whole school to find a bathroom they could use, causing them to miss instruction.

TikTok’s reach was wide, and Longfellow was by no means the only place this was happening. As the trend started gaining momentum, it began to spread, which influenced more people to participate. News outlets around the country started running stories on the trend, warning of dangerous and illegal “pranks” According to a PBS article entitled “Viral’ devious licks’ TikTok challenge encourages kids to steal from school,” people wanted to hop on the trend, so they stole items and vandalized schools as well.

After things got going, it was almost impossible to stop students until the trend died down and there was no motivation to keep doing the devious licks.  Many schools around the US, including schools in FCPS, started warning students that arrests and legal actions could be taken against them if these actions continued.

FCPS spokesperson Kathleen Miller said in an email that officials were conscious of several occasions of property damage and that “disciplinary action has and will be taken.”

According to the syndicated column Curbed by commentator Brock Colyar, some high school students have been arrested, Congress has gotten involved, and TikTok began to take down videos, such as the original. Then, in a Tweet, it outright banned the trend on September 15, two weeks after it started.

“We expect our community to create responsibly – online and IRL. We’re removing content and redirecting hashtags & search results to our Community Guidelines to discourage such behavior. Please be kind to your schools & teachers,” TikTok announced.

Colyar’s column, entitled “The Grown-up Hysteria Around TikTok’s Devious Licks,” suggests that many of the posts were faked in a bid for TikTok fame.

Fake or not, the missing items in boys’ bathrooms and classrooms around Longfellow were very real. Dr. Patrick responded by sending a message to the community, alerting them to the problem.

“I wanted families to have this conversation about what proper behavior was,” he said. One thing he tried not to do was give the trend even more attention, which he felt would only make the problem worse.

“Ours [issues] did get managed fairly quickly compared to what I’ve heard happened in other schools. So that was kind of the balancing Act I tried to do with how to address that type of situation.”

Perhaps as a way to make amends, TikTok users have countered the trend by posting videos of replacing stolen items, calling it Angelic Yields. It was essentially the opposite of Devious Licks.

The principal finished by saying, “I expect [students] to make better choices going forward. We all make mistakes. The key is learning from those mistakes and making sure that we are responsible, respectful, and safe for the rest of the year.”