FARGO — Some area students participating in the viral TikTok trend called “Devious Licks,” in which students steal objects and show them off on social media, are facing criminal charges, while the increasing severity of future online challenges is worrying administrators.
Although the online list of monthly challenges is being called a hoax by some national media outlets, schools across the state are issuing warnings that violence won’t be tolerated.
According to an email from Fargo North High School Principal Travis Christensen to parents, upcoming challenges include assault, indecent exposure and vandalism. In September and early October, other local public school districts reported students were participating in the Devious Licks trend, which included vandalism and theft of school property.
According to Urban Dictionary, a "lick" is a "successful type of theft which results in an acceptable, impressive and rewarding payday for the protagonist.”
“It appears that there are upcoming monthly Tik Tok challenges going around that continue to urge students to engage in inappropriate behavior,” Christensen said in the email.
So far in Fargo’s public schools, 19 secondary students have been referred to the authorities for charges, and other students have service hours to complete due to participation in the Devious Licks challenge, said AnnMarie Campbell, district spokesperson, adding that the trend began in September.
“Many of the incidents in our schools due to the ‘Devious Licks’ challenge fall into the categories of theft or vandalism. Students faced disciplinary actions according to school policy,” Campbell said. “At this point, the challenge has slowed down and is not a current issue for us in our schools.”
“Smack a staff member on the backside” is the challenge listed for the month of October, Christensen said. In December, the challenge is to expose genitals in school hallways.
VICE News, a national media outlet, said the challenges are most likely a hoax, and no credible incidents of assault have been reported anywhere in the nation.
The Devious Licks trend originated on Sept. 1 after a TikTok user posted a video showing a box of disposable masks they claimed to have stolen from school. The trend later moved to restroom items, and eventually to students stealing telephones, exit signs, microscopes and more, according to People Magazine.
More than 235 million people viewed the hashtag #deviouslicks before TikTok began taking the posts down, according to Fox News.
Bismarck Public Schools spokesperson Steve Koontz said he believes the list of online challenges is a hoax.
“That’s my feeling on it; I know there is a list of alleged challenges for the next several months, and there’s no evidence that is a valid thing,” Koontz said.
“There have been some instances of vandalism or theft, very few, but it has occurred. It constitutes a fraction of a percentage of the population that have been involved, and there have been some charges for vandalism issued by the Bismarck Police Department,” he said.
Moorhead Area Public Schools spokesperson Brenda Richman said students were involved in the online trend in mid-September, and the district “notified parents of the challenge and incidents related to it. Since then incidents have declined in frequency and severity."
Two students have been charged in connection to the online trend, and several other students have been held accountable to pay for damages, Richman said.
West Fargo Public Schools issued a statement on its Facebook page on Oct. 5 saying the district charged “multiple students with theft and/or vandalism in relation to this challenge and continues to investigate items that remain missing.”
“What is concerning to us now is the recently released series of challenges for students to participate in. Over the next four months, social media challenges include acts that would be considered assault, sexual assault and indecent exposure,” the district reported, adding they have a zero-tolerance policy for such acts.
Mandan Middle School Principal Ryan Leingang issued a letter to parents on Sept. 30 warning them about Devious Licks, “where students steal objects and show off what they’ve taken in their own social media posts. Unfortunately, this trend has made its way into our school.”
During the month of September, the school had multiple incidents of vandalism mimicking the TikTok trend, and the vandalism “caused undo stress on staff in keeping our schools a safe and clean place to learn.”
Leingang also addressed the newer trend of “Smack a staff member on the backside,” adding that “striking a staff member with hands or any object will not be tolerated and will be dealt with severely.”
Christensen said that while he is not aware that Fargo North High School has had any issues with students smacking or touching staff members inappropriately, “I do think that this gives us as parents/guardians and educators an opportunity to have conversations with our kids about what is right and wrong.”
In Bismarck’s public schools, a different approach is being taken.
“Our stance would be that our kids generally know not to vandalize or assault staff members; they don’t need us to tell them that for them not to do that,” Koontz said.
A previous version of this story stated that the trend began on September 1, but it was sometime in September.