Schools Close Bathrooms Due To Vandalization From TikTok 'Devious Licks' Trend
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Students are used to taking tests. But lately, it's their bladders that are being tested. Linda Curtice of Tempe, Ariz., first heard about it last week when she picked up her teenager from school.
LINDA CURTICE: He jumped into the back seat with his girlfriend. And I said, OK, we're going to go home, right? Or do you want to get something to eat? He says, I need to go home. I need the bathroom, like, immediately. And I was like, what do you mean you need a bathroom? He's like, there's no bathrooms at school today. I'm like, what?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The boy's bathrooms, he told her, were closed. The only open one was at the nurse's office, which meant a long line of very uncomfortable students.
CURTICE: That really makes me mad. You know, that's literally inhumane.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And the reason for this - well, destruction in the bathrooms in middle and high schools nationwide - soap dispensers stolen, mirrors broken, sinks ripped off of walls. It's part of the latest TikTok trend known as devious licks.
CURTICE: Devious licks. Oh, I had to have him repeat it three times. I said, what do you mean, devious - devious what? He says a lick is like a theft. Mom, you just don't know these words. And I don't. I really don't know all these words.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yep, that's right. The kids have rebranded old-fashioned theft and vandalism and given it a soundtrack.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SKI SKI BASEDGOD")
LIL B: Ay, man, you already know who it is.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: This music from rapper Lil B is like a siren song, playing on videos where students unzip backpacks to show off their devious licks. Ashwina Bangari says, yep, it's happening at her high school outside of Boston. And nope, she's not impressed.
ASHWINA BANGARI: If I'm being honest, I think it's really silly. Like, I don't see a need to take home a soap dispenser.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Silly and costly as the students try to one up each other with more extreme thefts. Officials in California's Lucia Mar Unified School District say they've had about $7,000 worth of damage from the devious licks trend.
Diana Lopez Martinez works with students at a school in Austin, Texas. She says a urinal was taken from her school.
DIANA LOPEZ MARTINEZ: Taking the whole urinal from the wall and, you know, taking it home or taking it whatever - like, I really don't know what happened to it. Like, I would like to know what a student wanted with, you know, a well-used public urinal. Like, that's another thing that confuses me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Of course, it's never really just about the urinal. Jacqueline Nesi is a professor at Brown University. And she studies the effects of social media on teens' mental health.
JACQUELINE NESI: The goal is not to have the thing that you've stolen from the school. I think the goal is really to have the what seems like approval of your peers online. And that's a really powerful incentive for teens.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Nesi says all of those incentives are really amplified on TikTok. There's a large audience and an easy way to quantify approval, with more likes, more shares, more views. Now TikTok has taken down any videos tagged with the phrase devious licks, though enterprising users are trying to get around that by using creative spelling. Meanwhile, school administrators are reminding students that TikTok is not real life. What is very real is the thousands of dollars guilty students would be responsible for and a potential felony charge. Finally, Jacqueline Nesi says, keep this in mind.
NESI: These trends do tend to be short-lived.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Especially when adults are talking about it on NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.