Washington County School District says ‘Devious Licks’ TikTok challenge has led to spike in vandalism

ST. GEORGE — A soda bottle shattered the windshield of a school bus heading to pick up 100 kindergarten students from Riverside Elementary on Thursday — one of several incidents officials at the Washington County School District believe is part of a viral TikTok challenge.

Damage from a soda bottle thrown at the windshield of a school bus on South 3000 East, in St. George, Utah, Oct. 7, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Steve Dunham, St. George News

The school bus was heading north on South 3000 East shortly before noon Thursday when a soda bottle was thrown at the bus by an unknown individual in a dark-colored pickup truck heading in the opposite direction.

Steve Dunham, communications director for the district, told St. George News the bottle struck the windshield of the bus, creating a spiderweb of cracks and causing the windshield to cave in nearly 2 inches.

The safety glass remained in tact, as designed, Dunham said, but the dent in the windshield shows the amount of forces that were at work when the bottle was hurled at a bus that was traveling at about 40 mph at the time.

Thankfully, Dunham said, the bus driver was the sole occupant when the incident took place. The bus driver maintained control of the bus, and once he reached Riverside Elementary, where he was scheduled to pick up the kindergarten students, he parked the bus and notified the district. The incident was also reported to the St. George Police Department.

Dunham said this is one of several incidents reported over the course of a month or so that district officials have reason to believe may be part of a new trend going around on the social media site TikTok. The “Devious Licks” challenge encourages kids to damage or steal property and post the videos online.

The challenge started on the TikTok social media platform more than a month ago, when students began posting videos of themselves stealing items from high schools, tampering with soap dispensers and fire extinguishers and vandalizing school bathrooms.

Stock image | Photo by ViewApart/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St George News

The challenge seems to be affecting schools across Utah and the nation, and it has also created an uptick in the number of vandalism reports involving the damage and destruction of school property here in Washington County, Dunham said, adding that it appears to be targeted primarily at school bathrooms, where school officials are finding the large mirrors broken and damaged, soap dispensers that have been destroyed or removed and other items destroyed.

While the incidents may appear to be insignificant, the cost to the district has been high, Dunham said.

“We’ve had tens of thousands of dollars in damage at our schools,” he said.

He also said that many of the students involved in the recent incidents have been identified using security footage and other resources, and school officials across Washington County are well aware of the social media challenge and are monitoring the situation since this particular challenge can change monthly.

TikTok has been quick to shut down the trend, with the company removing many of the videos from its platform. For those searching for the videos under the “Devious Licks” search term, they encounter the following message:

No results found. This phrase may be associated with behavior or content that violates our guidelines. Promoting a safe and positive experience is TikTok’s top priority. For more information, we invite you to review our Community Guidelines.

These acts of vandalism have come at a serious cost to the students as well, Dunham said. A number of students have been suspended or expelled from attending school as a result. They can also face criminal charges, depending on the seriousness of the damage or loss, which can result in a juvenile record.

Dunham also said the school district can only do so much, and school officials are asking that parents step in and talk to their children about the seriousness of this “challenge” and to be aware of their child’s online activity.

“This is a call to action for parents to reach out to their children and talk to them about this challenge,” he said, “and the serious consequences that can result from their participation.”

He also said they have not identified the student or individual reportedly involved in Thursday’s incident with the school bus. The district is asking any student who may have information that may help authorities identify the individuals responsible to speak to their school resource officer. He also said the information can be reported to the St. George Police Department by calling 435-627-4300.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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