Some local students are learning the hard way that social media has real-world consequences. Schools in Mobile and Baldwin counties have reported cases of damage and theft of school property associated with a nationwide TikTok trend known as Devious Licks. In at least two instances, students are now facing criminal charges.
The Devious Licks challenge emerged in August as the school year began. The stunts are popular among middle and high school students, who record and post videos of themselves stealing and vandalizing property at their schools or pretending to. Local education officials tell Lagniappe their schools are no exception.
In an effort to quash the activity, TikTok removed the ability to search for the Devious Licks hashtag last month. If a user searches the phrase, they are given a notice which states, “The phrase may be associated with behavior or content that violates our guidelines. Promoting a safe and positive experience is TikTok’s top priority.”
Mobile County Schools Director of Communications Rena Philips initially told Lagniappe she was unaware of any incidents in the school system. However, a video shared on Snapchat and TikTok appears to show damage from vandalism inside a Baker High School bathroom. The video shows a sink torn off a wall, a toilet damaged, sinks clogged and running over, and a student pulling out a soap dispenser from a backpack.
A separate post allegedly involving Baker High School captures audio of an adult addressing students, explaining to the minors they will have to pay for any damages associated with Devious Licks activity, vandalism is considered a criminal offense and they will be recommended for expulsion on a second infraction. The video’s description reads: “They not playin y’all… it’s getting too out of hand.”
A Lagniappe reporter shared this video with Philips for comment and was asked if the county administrators were aware of the incident. She later told a reporter during a phone interview she had verified with the principal the recorded incident did occur at Baker High School, a student had been identified in the case and a police report had been filed.
According to a spokesperson with the Mobile Police Department, a 15-year-old was charged with second-degree criminal mischief — a misdemeanor — and arrested at the high school Aug. 31. The student was then transported to James T. Strickland Youth Center. According to Alabama Code, an individual commits second-degree criminal mischief when they inflict damage to property in an amount between $500 and $2,500.
Philips was asked if there were any other known incidents of Devious Licks stunts in Mobile County Schools. She said there were “a couple” of other cases, but she did not know any details.
“There’s a lot that goes on that I don’t hear about. There are 90 schools in our system,” Philips said.
Gulf Shores City Schools Superintendent Matt Akin said his school system has experienced only a couple of minor incidents related to the trend, and it involved damage in one of his schools’ bathrooms. He said damage was minimal and no charges are being filed against any student.
Both middle and high school principals have sent notices to parents and guardians stressing there will be no tolerance for such activity. In a notification issued to parents of students at Gulf Shores Middle School, Principal Kyle McCartney said, per the school handbook, students involved in this type of activity will “receive sanctions aligned with a school policy that could include suspension or expulsion and local police will be notified.”
A Robertsdale High School student is facing criminal charges after they were caught on security footage stealing a fire extinguisher, said Chasity Riddick, communications director for Baldwin County Schools. Incidents of the TikTok challenge have been reported at Fairhope High, Spanish Fort High and Central Baldwin High schools as well, Riddick said. The majority of the cases have been minor and involved smaller items, such as soap dispensers and bags. Riddick said the stolen fire extinguisher escalated concerns among administrators about the stunts.
“Now you’re dealing with a bigger issue than just stealing,” Riddick said. “Now, it’s a safety hazard.”
Riddick said the extinguisher was returned immediately after police got involved. After initial reporting of the event at Robertsdale High by local media, Riddick said public awareness increased about the challenge and parents began contacting the schools to report their own children and to return stolen items. She believes public awareness helped to stunt the trend.
The issue isn’t isolated to public schools either. McGill-Toolen Catholic High School parents received a message from school leadership last month letting them know about the trend and stressing not to allow their students to get involved. Kim Dunn, McGill spokesperson, verified with Lagniappe an announcement was given over the public address system informing students those caught participating in any vandalism or theft would face a disciplinary hearing. Students were also offered $100 rewards for information leading to the capture of anyone responsible for damage to school property or missing items. Dunn said the announcement was a preventative measure and no money has had to be paid out yet.
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