Pittsburg schools sound alarm on “Devious lick” TikTok challenge

Pittsburg Community Schools

PITTSBURG, Kan. – We can probably all agree we did some questionable things in our youth. But now, a TikTok challenge is encouraging kids to do something that could follow them later in life.

“It’s turning into something really destructive now,” says Crawford County Sheriff Danny Smith.

The “Devious Lick” challenge on TikTok has come to area schools. Students take part in the challenge by vandalizing or stealing school property and then posting a video of what they did to social media for views.

“We have seen some vandalism and small theft in the building,” says Pittsburg Community Middle School Principal Laura Earl.

It’s a trend they started seeing in Pittsburg schools last week, and they say it’s happening across the district. While they can’t say for sure that it’s because of the trend, the timing is suspicious, and the items that are being stolen are inexpensive and small.

“It’s more for the act of stealing it for the social media post than trying to get a large item,” says Earl.

While that may be the case, Sheriff Smith says he’s seen it become more serious — with students in schools across the country stealing fire extinguishers, sinks, computers, and more.

“Honestly it’s criminal damage of property,” explains Smith. “If the schools decide they need to contact law enforcement, then you have two things you have to deal with. You’re gonna get consequences from the school, and then potentially you could have criminal charges because of a silly challenge.”

Earl explains the district has sent letters to parents, asking them to talk to their students about vandalism, theft, and peer pressure to keep things from getting any worse. That full letter is below:

“Parents and Guardians,

I am writing to you today to inform you of a concerning issue that we see on social media. We are beginning to see disturbing trends that are perpetuated by social media platforms such as Tik Tok, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Most recently, there is a social media challenge nationwide encouraging students to vandalize their school bathrooms and/or steal items from their classrooms. Students film themselves engaging in these acts and post them to the various sites.  Because of this viral trend, we have had incidents of theft and vandalism happening throughout the district. We do not know whether or not these incidents are the result of the social media videos encouraging such behavior, but we find it problematic that we have seen this type of activity while it is being perpetuated online. We encourage you to talk with your students about their use of social media, and appropriate behaviors while at school.

Our buildings are meant to be a safe, clean space for our students and staff and the destruction and theft of school property will not be tolerated. There will be consequences for students who choose to engage in this behavior and can include the involvement of law enforcement.

We appreciate your support and encourage you to discuss your child’s social media accounts and the adverse effects of peer pressure that are often promoted by these platforms.”

Earl also says some students have returned what they swiped, explaining they weren’t aware of how serious it was.

“(We want to) help them understand that social media fads can have real-life consequences,” says Earl. “But it’s not about punishment, it’s about teaching them a lifelong lesson.”

TikTok has removed videos tagged with the “Devious Lick” hashtag from the platform.