SHERIDAN — School officials warned parents last week about TikTok’s recent “devious licks” challenge, a trend that encourages students to perform a series of unkind and destructive acts monthly during the school year and post videos of their behavior on the social media app, TikTok. Local school administrators assert the warning was a preventative measure, rather than a reaction to student behavior at Sheridan schools.
According to an email circulated by Sheridan school officials last week, the challenges range from the unpleasant, including May’s ditch day challenge, to the illegal, including October’s “smack a staff member” and January’s “jab a breast” challenges. September’s challenge urged students to vandalize school bathrooms.
Like most TikTok challenges, “devious licks” are part meme, part hazard. While some videos under the tag show relatively benign pranks — like students jokingly pocketing soap and water from school sinks — others show students trashing bathrooms or opening their backpacks to reveal stolen soap containers.
Until Monday, creators could also misspell the name of the trend — tagging videos as “devoiouc liks,” “d3vi0us lick” and “lickchlange” — to thwart TikTok’s community guidelines. TikTok’s algorithm might have automatically flagged or removed harmful content tagged “devious licks,” but only when the name of the challenge is spelled properly or the algorithm has been specifically trained to recognize the challenge’s alternative names.
Monday afternoon, TikTok apparently took some steps to close this loophole by authorizing the removal of content tagged as “devious licks” or the trend’s pseudonyms. A TikTok search for “devoiouc liks,” for example, now yields a warning from TikTok: “This phrase may be associated with behavior or content that violates our guidelines.”
And not all students are on board with the trend. Many students have posted TikToks lamenting the impacts of “devious licks” on their schools. In these videos, which show blank bathroom walls where soap dispensers, stalls and mirrors used to be, students demonstrate the harmful impacts of these challenges and ask their peers to stop participating.
Administrators at local schools say that the “devious licks” warning circulated to parents last week was a preventative measure, rather than a serious concern about “devious licks” performed at Sheridan schools.
Sheridan High School principal Michael Carnes, for instance, said the high school has not yet experienced any of the “devious licks” challenges. Other schools across the country, Carnes said, have encountered more behavioral issues connected with the viral trend than schools in Sheridan County.
Deputy superintendent for Sheridan County School District 2 Mitch Craft confirmed Carnes’ account. County school officials sent out the email to equip parents with the information necessary to deter “devious licks” from impacting students at Sheridan schools, Craft said, as did other school districts across the country.
According to Craft, the goal was to be “proactive and transparent [with parents] about what their children are facing on social media.”
As a longtime school administrator and a parent of a junior high student, Carnes recommended parents discuss the “devious licks” trend with their students, ask whether they have heard of the trend at school and inform students of the potential consequences of engaging in these challenges.
“Kids are the resource,” Carnes said. “They know a lot of things.”