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Ogden schools, like many, grappling with ‘devious licks’ TikTok challenge

By Tim Vandenack - | Sep 16, 2021

Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner

Mount Ogden Junior High School in Ogden on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. The principal of the school sent a message to parents, asking them to speak to their kids about the 'devious licks' challenge, an apparent problem in schools around Weber County and across the nation.

OGDEN — As if the threat of COVID-19 or the day-to-day efforts of instruction weren’t enough, school officials in Weber County have another issue to contend with — the “devious licks” challenge popular on TikTok, the social media platform.

It’s a national trend — or, to school officials, a scourge — and the principal of Mount Ogden Junior High School sent a message to parents this week, asking for their help in dealing with the problem. TikTok, too, is apparently cracking down on the trend, according to Insider, an online news outlet.

“We need your help,” reads the message from MOJHS Principal Cynthia Smith, sent Wednesday. The challenge “is taking a toll on Mount Ogden Junior High, as well as other schools in our area.”

The aim of those taking part in the challenge — teenage students, mainly — is to swipe something from their school then post video of the haul or action on TikTok.

“This is happening primarily in bathrooms, where there are no security cameras, and students have torn sinks off the wall, ripped off all of the soap dispensers, dumped liquid soap all over the floors and walls, dumped waste products on the floors, and many other similar messes,” Smith said in her message. “Students have recently taken this ‘challenge’ to the classroom, where they are taking textbooks and other property.”

Videos on TikTok showed one apparent participant in the challenge in Utah with a fire alarm, an exit sign and more. Other videos — distinguishable by the meme music associated with the trend — showed apparent participants with keys and an automatic hand dryer.

Jer Bates, spokesman for the Ogden School District, said “more than one secondary school” in the district reported issues stemming from the trend. “This is a clear and unfortunate example of how susceptible young people can be to the potentially negative influence of social media,” he said.

Ogden schools, though, are hardly alone.

Lane Findlay, spokesman for the Weber School District, said officials suspect the trend is exacting a toll in their schools. “We’ve also had a few of these types of items go missing this school year, and our suspicion is they may be connected. Our custodial supervisor actually sent something out this week asking all of our custodians to pay closer attention to these types of things,” he said.

USA Today and other media outlets, meantime, reported that schools in California, Virginia and Florida, among other places, had been dealing with the issue.

A TikTok rep told Insider that in light of the trend, the social media platform was taking steps to crackdown, the outlet reported Wednesday. “TikTok is removing hashtags and redirecting searches related to a trend of students stealing from their schools because the behavior violates its community guidelines,” Insider reported.

In her message, Smith said most Mount Ogden students are respectful. She asked parents to talk to their kids about the matter.

“Schools have no authority and no means to monitor the social media activity of students,” added Bates. “We implore parents to be actively engaged in the social media activity of their children and to take responsibility for talking with their children about making good choices.”

But officials in both the Ogden and Weber school districts indicated they would take a potentially strong approach in dealing with the matter.

“Those who are found to be involved will receive consequences. Stealing and vandalism are not only a violation of school rules, they also violate the law,” Smith said.

Findlay sounded a similar message. “If any students are caught removing these items from school property, not only will they face disciplinary action from the school, but also potential criminal charges,” he said.

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