PLATTSBURGH — After a recent string of vandalism and thefts in school bathrooms, the Plattsburgh Central School District is wondering if a social media trend is to blame.

On Tik Tok — the short-form video sharing app — students have recorded themselves breaking or stealing paper towel and soap dispensers, dismantling bathroom stalls and taking other pieces of school property. Students have called those acts “devious licks.”

ATYPICAL DAMAGE

Since the start of the school year on Sept. 8, Superintendent Jay Lebrun said the PCSD has seen eight paper towel dispensers broken or ripped off walls and toilets that have been purposely clogged with paper towels or feminine hygiene products in a few instances.

“Vandalism in the school setting is nothing new, but this volume of damage within a relatively-short period of time is atypical and may be connected to the social media trend,” Lebrun said.

In an effort to stifle the trend on Wednesday, Tik Tok began banning videos from users posting their “devious licks,” saying the platform expects its community, “to stay safe and create responsibly,” and that it does not “allow content that promotes or enables criminal activities.”

IN BATHROOMS

Prior to the ban, videos of students following the trend raked up millions of views on the app.

The trend, which largely takes place in school bathrooms, presents issues for schools in finding and holding students responsible for damage.

“Bathrooms, by their nature, are somewhat more challenging settings in which to supervise student behavior,” Lebrun said, “But our school administrators are adept at dealing with problematic conduct, and if this is indeed related to social media, its typical that other students or parents will eventually share these posts with our staff.”

In place of recording “devious licks” students nationally have begun posting videos of their schools’ disgruntled and frustrated administrators chastising them over public address systems for the broken and stolen property.

“We do not have the resources to call each of your parents and tell them what you’re doing,” a screaming administrator can be heard saying in one of the videos. “So from now on, we will be removing the doors from the hinges on the bathrooms — girls and boys — this is completely unacceptable, and this is the only recourse we have.”

Tik Tok’s “devious licks” videos is the second trend in the last two months that prompted the platform to conduct widespread bans among its users for what it saw as dangerous behavior.

In August, users stacked empty milk crates to form pyramids in an effort to run across them. Many of the videos recorded people falling as the crates collapsed underneath them.

In late August, Tik Tok began wiping hashtags users could use to search for the trend.

Email Fernando Alba:

falba@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @byfernandoalba

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