The fallout of a destructive new trend on social media has been felt in local school districts.
The “Devious Licks” challenge emerged on the social media app TikTok earlier this month. The trend encouraged students to steal or vandalize from their schools. In the time since it went viral, schools around the nation have reported everything from bathroom soap dispensers to toilets to classroom projectors being stolen by students looking to pick up a few “likes.”
Schools in Morrison County have not been immune.
Though both reported only a couple of minor, isolated incidents, principals at Little Falls Community High School and Royalton High School said they have had to address students participating in the challenge.
LFCHS Principal Tim Bjorge said there were two incidents at the school, which were found out on Sept. 15 and Sept. 16. He said he addressed the issue with the student body on Sept. 17 and, as of Tuesday, there had been no further problems.
“In my 14 years at the district, we’ve had very little trouble with things like this,” he said. “I’m happy that we’ve addressed this and we have a staff that is behind us in telling the kids that vandalizing school property to get a couple likes on TikTok is ridiculous. We hope we’re past it.”
He said the district has judicious discipline monitors who regularly keep an eye out for any problems within the building, regardless of whether there have been recent incidents or not. Those monitors have kept an eye on school bathrooms since the aforementioned issues to ensure that, if something does happen, it can be identified and dealt with immediately.
Royalton High School Principal Joel Swenson said his experience was similar.
“We dealt with a few minor incidents related to the TikTok challenge over the past few weeks,” he said. “We immediately addressed the issue and communicated out to parents, which has pretty much taken care of the issue.”
Around the country, students have been criminally charged in connection to their participation in the challenge. USA Today reported Tuesday, that the Boone County Sheriff’s Office in Kentucky had charged eight juveniles — four with vandalism and four with theft — in relation to the trend.
Nothing has risen to anything close to that level locally, but Bjorge said it’s something students should think about before they get involved in the challenge.
“If the actions of a student — whether it’s related to this or not — rises to that level, they could be charged with a crime,” he said. “Obviously I don’t like to go that route, but it would depend on the severity of the incident. Luckily we haven’t had anything that serious here.”
Pierz Superintendent George Weber said he wasn’t aware of any incidents in the district. Tuesday, he said he had just recently heard about the trend on a conference call with other superintendents from around the state.
To stop the problem before it starts, he said staff was made aware of what was going on and asked to keep a look out.
“I’m guessing the principals in our buildings have already heard about it,” he said. “I heard from some of the superintendents from other schools that they’d had a lot of problems with it. It’s too bad.”
Both Bjorge and Swenson said parents and community members can play a role in preventing this challenge or anything that may come up in the future from becoming a big problem.
Swenson said “good communication between home and school is key.” He said each week he sends out an email to families highlighting the good things that are happening in the district, as well as addressing any problems that are occurring.
“If there is something parents can help with, like having a conversation with their student about not getting involved in things like the TikTok challenge, I include it in the email,” he said. “Keeping parents and families informed as much as possible is our way to make sure these things don’t spiral into a bigger issue.”
Bjorge said the school has always told students to “pause before you post.” They have often warned students that what they post online will not go away, and it could follow them for the rest of their lives.
In that light, he said it was also good practice for parents to monitor what their students are doing on social media. It is also important to talk to them about any problems they come across.
Ultimately, he hopes the issue is behind them and the school can continue with what has been a good start to the year.
“We have over 800 students in the high school, and we don’t want the actions of a few kids to ruin anything for the rest of them,” Bjorge said. “We’re off to a really good start to the year. We’re in school, things are getting back to normal, we’re not having to wear masks — the kids want to be here.”