NEW: Vandals “lick” Knox schools

Tik Tok “Devious Licks” from across the country have included (clockwise, from top left) a fire alarm, a clock, a class mascot, and a backpack stuffed with laptops.

A popular Tik Tok challenge has wreaked havoc at some Knox County schools, triggering a stern response from educators who’ve found themselves battling a surge of petty crime as well as the ongoing COVID pandemic.

The social media platform Tik Tok has been flooded with short videos submitted by teenagers from across the United States “getting” or “scoring” what are called “Devious Licks” — acts of theft or vandalism targeting school property. 

Participants show off the damaged or stolen items, ranging from soap dispensers to tires, and engage in bragging contests with other teens. Some of the more daring youths can even be seen carrying away doors, bathroom fixtures and lounge furniture.

Officials from Knox County Schools haven’t said how many campuses have seen “licks” since classes started August 9, but they confirmed it’s been a problem at more than one facility.

“KCS has experienced instances of vandalism at some middle and high schools, which we believe are related to content on social media platforms such as Tik Tok,” said KCS spokesperson Carly Harrington.

“Our school administrators are working diligently to address this, and students who are found to be engaging in vandalism will face disciplinary consequences.”

Apparently the hardest “licked” campus is Central High School, where administrators have gone so far as to lock up restrooms and issue increasingly severe threats in the face of an epidemic that’s reportedly seen a sink stolen from at least one lavatory. 

CHS thanks Executive Principal Andrew Brown summarized a week’s frustrations in an angry email sent out Friday afternoon to students, parents, and employees.

“This week, we have had numerous soap dispensers, hand sanitizer dispensers, sink parts, ceiling tiles, light fixtures, projector remotes, other school property, and even personal items belonging to teachers removed and/or destroyed,” Brown said.

“I expect more from our students. Earlier in the week, I made an announcement to reason with them about these actions. Unfortunately, the destruction has continued,” he explained. 

“If your student tells you that bathrooms are locked, don’t have soap, or are a complete wreck, they are probably not lying to you,” he said. “We have had to do what we can to keep facilities open while trying to stop this behavior. The unfortunate part is that we are having a hard time replacing sanitation items due to the pandemic, so it may be in short supply for a while.”

Brown vowed to “prosecute and punish anyone we find to the fullest extent.”

“If we catch any student from this point forward destroying or stealing property, we will not only suspend them for the maximum time allowed by board policy, we will also charge them for restitution of the item or items taken or damaged. This is not how we want to run a school, but this has to stop.”

He concluded: “I would encourage you to share this information with your students and check their social media accounts to make sure they are not participating in such foolishness. Central is a family and a community and this is not how we take care of our home. I am asking for your help to put this to an end.”

Reactions at school systems across the country have ranged from installing additional surveillance equipment to requiring students to carry transparent backpacks.

Published on September 20, 2021.