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Dec. 4, 2021

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TikTok challenge has hit Pierce County schools; property damage in ‘tens of thousands’

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School districts in Pierce County are paying for damages related to a TikTok trend that challenges students to vandalize school bathrooms.

For one district, costs have reached tens of thousands of dollars.

TikTok is a social media platform that allows users to make and share video content. The TikTok trend in question, also sometimes called the “devious licks” challenge, dares students to “vandalize a restroom” and is causing problems at schools across the country.

There are challenges for other months of the year, including “slap a staff member on the backside” in October and “kiss your friends’ girlfriend at school” in November.

TikTok told news outlets in September it was doing its best to remove the videos from its platform.

Clover Park superintendent Ron Banner told families in an Oct. 5 letter that the district has spent “tens of thousands of dollars” on damaged property and staff time.

In middle and high schools across the Lakewood-based school district, spokesperson Leanna Albrecht said, staff has spent hours cleaning bathrooms and impacted areas, repairing damaged property, escorting students to and from bathrooms in some cases and investigating incidents.

The district is highly concerned about the TikTok challenges, including October’s, Albrecht said.

“This behavior is illegal — they are not harmless pranks — and there are real and serious consequences for this criminal behavior,” Banner said in the letter. “In the event a student or adult engages in any of this criminal behavior, it will be dealt with swiftly in accordance with school district policies and state/local law.”

Other districts have experienced bathroom damage, if not as costly, related to the September TikTok challenge.

“Yes, these attention-seeking TikTok challenges have been a problem here, too,” Bethel School District spokesperson Doug Boyles told The News Tribune. “We have had some minor damages related to them and are doing our best to mitigate each situation as they come up.”

In Tacoma Public Schools, there was one instance last month of diluted red food coloring spread across several bathroom stalls at Hunt Middle School, said district spokesperson Dan Voelpel. There was no damage to fixtures that required replacement, but the mess required custodial time to clean up.

“After that, we sent a message to all our families about the September challenge,” Voelpel said. “We subsequently learned of the monthly school-related TikTok challenges that have circulated on that platform.”

There have been no reports about the October challenge.

Voelpel said the student who vandalized the bathroom was found, but the district does not publicly announce student discipline for privacy reasons.

In Puyallup, the district said it could not confirm that recent vandalism is connected to the social media challenge. Communications director Sarah Gillispie said staff is closely monitoring all vandalism reports.

“We’ve had some reports of school vandalism since school has been in session, but so far, no significant increase from pre-COVID years,” she said in an email.

The Puyallup School District encourages parents to talk with their children about the challenges, warning that inappropriate and unlawful behaviors can lead to potential suspension, fines or criminal charges.

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