Schools try to flush washroom mess from TikTok challenge

A social media challenge encouraging students to trash school bathrooms has Calgary school boards trying to flush the problem before it overflows.

'Devious Licks' a pricey nightmare that makes pandemic cleanliness harder

A TikTok challenge called Devious Licks has students across North America filming and uploading videos showing vandalism and theft on school property, often in washrooms. These screenshots, from various users, give a sense of the destruction. (@hayderr/@trentzalitach03/@devious.sink/TikTok)

A social media challenge encouraging students to trash school bathrooms has Calgary school boards trying to flush the problem before it overflows.

As part of a TikTok challenge called "Devious Licks," students record themselves vandalizing and stealing items from school washrooms and post it online.

"To be blunt, we are tired of repeatedly closing washrooms each and every day," the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) wrote in a statement to parents recently.

"It costs us time and money, and inconveniences those students who just need to use the washroom."

And it's not just secular students who need to clean up their act.

The Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) is asking parents to tattle on students if they hear anything suspicious.

The district says soap dispensers have been stolen, bathroom locks have been torn out, and red food colouring has been sprayed on toilet seats.

"And today, a paper towel dispenser [was] ripped off the wall and thrown into a toilet," the Catholic district warned parents in a statement.

"If you have heard any of your children talking about who may be doing this, please contact the administration team.… We will keep the investigation confidential."

The CBE said it's working to relieve the problem.

"Vandalism is costly, and possible disciplinary actions can be taken both by the school and by the police," the board told CBC News.

The Catholic district said it's trying to clean up the mess, too.

"Teachers and administrators have discussed the severity of this issue with students. TikTok has confirmed they will be removing these videos from the platform," CCSD wrote in an email to CBC News.

A TikTok search of "Devious Licks" on Thursday afternoon yielded no results.

David Howse is a marketing instructor at Mount Royal University in Calgary. (Supplied by David Howse)

A marketing instructor says COVID-19 has people washing their hands more often, so the timing here is terrible.

"So it's also a health issue," David Howse told CBC News on Thursday.

This challenge could have gained traction as social interactions with peers have dropped because of the pandemic, he said.

"The word is clout. They want some TikTok clout just to gain some popularity on social channels," said Howse, who teaches digital marketing at Mount Royal University.

But schools can fix the problem, he adds, though it may not be popular with students.

"The policies of allowing cellphones in class and taking them to the washroom, why is that a necessity? That could be a simple solution."

With files from CBC's Lucie Edwardson