School leaders in Connecticut are reporting vandalism that they say is tied to a viral social media challenge encouraging students to either destroy or steal school property.
"To have something like this glorified on TikTok is reprehensible," said Fran Rabinowitz, who leads the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.
According to Rabinowitz, schools have reported thousands of dollars worth of damage statewide. She said superintendents have seen everything from broken bathroom mirrors to stolen fire extinguishers.
The trend is called "devious licks." Students across the country are vandalizing school property, recording the vandalism, and sharing the videos on TikTok.
"It's kind of just like a silly thing that when one person does it they think it's cool so that more people do it and it kind of went to an extreme extent," said Julia Barry, a student at Norwich Free Academy.
Norwich Free Academy (NFA) is just one school in Connecticut reporting problems. The vandalism at NFA has mostly targeted bathrooms with reports of clogged toilets, drained soap dispensers and a paper towel dispenser ripped off a wall.
NFA's head of school shared a video message with students and parents last week asking them to denounce the behavior and report any incidents of vandalism.
"We simply will not tolerate this kind of behavior," said Dr. Brian Kelly, head of school at NFA.
According to Kelly, the minimum consequence for taking part in the social media trend will be an out-of-school suspension.
"I am glad they came down hard because the softer we are, the longer it will last," said Walter Kolasa, the parent of an NFA freshman.
The superintendent for the Consolidated School District of New Britain sent a letter to parents after seeing students at the middle schools and high school participate in the challenge.
"Please speak with your children about the value of their education and that all students deserve to feel they are learning in a safe environment. This collective responsibility will ensure we rise above the negative presence and influence of social media that is currently encouraging students to vandalize our schools," Superintendent Sarra wrote in the letter.
Granby Memorial High School is another school reporting problems. The principal of GMHS sent a letter about the vandalism to families.
"Needless to say, not only are such destructive behaviors far beneath the expectations we hold for our students, they put others at risk, reflect pathetically mindless adherence to social media trends, and will be subject to significant consequences for students found to be responsible," principal Mike Dunn wrote to families. "As always we encourage you to monitor your students’ use of social media, and also encourage you to reach out with any information you think might help."
If you search "devious licks" on TikTok now, the phrase "no results found" pops up. The site redirects you to their community guidelines.
"We expect our community to stay safe and create responsibly, and we do not allow content that promotes or enables criminal activities. We are removing this content and redirecting hashtags and search results to our Community Guidelines to discourage such behavior," a TikTok spokesperson told NBC Connecticut.
TikTok partnered with the National PTA to create a "TikTok Guide for Parents," that offers tips to help navigate the social media platform and how to talk about it with your kids.