Sep. 21—School districts on the Central Coast are facing thousands of dollars in damages as a result of a new TikTok trend that involves the theft and vandalism of school property, with school bathrooms being the biggest target.
Officials in the Lucia Mar Unified, Guadalupe Union and Santa Maria Joint Union High School districts sent out memos to parents last week concerning the "devious licks" trend, which commonly involves students "licking" or stealing items like soap dispensers, trash cans, keys and other items.
They are far from being the only districts impacted by this fad — over the past week, schools throughout the country have seen students stealing or destroying school property ranging from urinals to even school security vehicles, then posting the feat to social media.
"This week, alone, our high schools have had thousands of dollars worth of damage done by acts of vandalism to their facilities, mostly to our student restrooms," Santa Maria Joint Union district director of student services Steve Molina said in a Sept. 17 notice. "Damage done to restrooms often requires us to close that facility for repairs, unfairly harming all students that need to use that facility during the day."
District spokesman Kenny Klein said they are most commonly seeing thefts of hand towel and soap dispensers, some trash cans and damages to various fixtures. He declined to comment on whether any students have faced disciplinary action for their involvement.
Representatives from local districts said their schools are increasing campus security and reviewing surveillance footage in order to identify perpetrators and deter further destruction.
In addition to disciplinary actions such as loss of privileges to participate in sports, student events and extracurricular activities, culpable students may face criminal charges and be charged for stolen or destroyed property.
Under California law, theft of property valued at $950 or more is considered a felony.
"The typical cost to replace soap dispensers and urinals can run from $500 [to] $2,000," said Brent Vander Weide, student safety and support coordinator for the Lucia Mar Unified School District.
In a video from one student at Nipomo High School, toilets in a school restroom can be seen overflowing with paper towels, and in one stall, a large trash can has been dumped and left on a toilet.
Districts are also encouraging parents to talk with students about the consequences of participating in the trend.
"We also encourage monitoring of students' social media activity, as these types of social media challenges tend to involve risky behaviors of which students do not typically realize the serious consequences or threat to the safety of our schools and community until it's too late," Vander Weide said.