AVON, Ind. — A viral trend on social media is sweeping through schools across the country for all the wrong reasons.
It’s called the “devious lick” challenge. Middle school and high school students are stealing, not licking, bathroom supplies like soap and soap dispensers, often causing damage in the process and posting the act online for a laugh.
But central Indiana schools don’t think it’s funny. Neither does one school resource officer determined to put an end to the trend.
“We have to stop this and stop this now,” said Richard Craig, lead school resource officer for the Avon School Police Department. “Trends like this happen fast. It doesn’t take long, it spreads like wildfire because especially in middle school, these kids want to be a part of something.”
Craig said that something they are apart of is theft, vandalism and criminal activity.
“Unfortunately with this trend now what is happening, these students really don’t understand the consequences and the repercussions of their actions. This is something, if this happened outside the walls of this building, chances are you would be arrested and charged for it,” Craig said. “Kids are taking their smart phones and going and stealing soap, soap dispensers, items from the school building, and they are videoing, as silly as this sounds, they are videoing themselves stealing this item, sticking it in their backpack and leaving just to post it on TikTok.”
Craig views his role as lead SRO for Avon Community Schools as a privilege. He builds friendships with his students and has even officiated a wedding for a student who remained close to him years after their time in school.
“I really try to be the cool uncle from time to time is really what I try to achieve because I’m not just a hall cop, I’m a teacher, mentor, a counselor, all of those things for these students, but first and foremost, my concern is student safety and security,” Craig said. “Relationship building, getting to know your students, having your students come to you before you have to go to them. Proactive relationship building, that’s the role that I am here at Avon, and that’s what I achieve, try to achieve on a daily basis.”
His relationships with students and staff at the school is partially what lead @OfficerCraig to create social media profiles for himself on Twitter, TikTok and other outlets to keep a watchful eye on his students, build their trust and try to keep potentially dangerous, or devious, trends like this from spreading.
“The reason I’m on TikTok is exactly that, to keep up with trends so I can get students to follow me and watch my silly videos. My TikTok is very mundane and unexciting in my terms, but I make videos, and I continue to keep a presence just for that reason, so kids can reach out to me, I can reach out to kids and keep up with what trends and things that are going on.
“And I of course heard about this trend from both of my own middle school children that were starting to see a lot of it here in our schools and the kids were telling me about it all, and then I started to see it in the building I was working in just last Monday.”
Which is what prompted him to make this TikTok video:
“It’s really not funny at all, and there’s some serious consequences that can come out of this,” Craig said. ”It’s gotten to the point with many buildings across the country that they are shutting bathrooms down. They are limiting restroom breaks. We don’t want to do that here in Avon. We’re not at that point yet.”
But they are at that point at Greenfield Central Schools.
“We have tried to limit some of the use of restrooms other than on passing periods just so we can have a better eye on what’s happening,” said Greenfield Central Schools Superintendent Dr. Harold Olin. “We can’t be all places at all times, and certainly we don’t want to take those opportunities away from students. When you need a bathroom break, you need a bathroom break. I understand that.
“These are kids thinking that they’re just being funny, following a national trend, and it’s something they can laugh about, but they don’t really think about the full implications of that.”
Another school immediately impacted by the devious trend was Westfield Washington Schools, whose administration sent parents this statement:
“There is currently a trend on TikTok, a video-based social media platform, promoting vandalism and theft in schools, specifically bathrooms. Our intermediate, middle and high schools have seen an increase in the destruction of property and stolen items. School administrators and staff have increased monitoring throughout the buildings. If any student witnesses inappropriate behavior, they can anonymously report an incident to our TIPS system or directly to any adult within our schools.
“Students should be aware that these actions will not be tolerated. Schools will follow their student handbook in handling these situations if they should arise. Actions could result in restitution, suspension/expulsion from the school setting and/or filing of charges with the Westfield Police Department.”
Items have been stolen and otherwise vandalized at Avon Community Schools, but they remain hopeful that this trend, like many others, will quickly pass.
“My biggest thing I’m trying to get across is for parents to engage, engage in your students, engage in conversation,” Craig said. “Find out what’s going on. Find out if the trend is happening at their school because I assure you that it is. See if they know anybody that’s taken these, and get their input about it.”
This trend, Craig said, can serve as a teaching moment. That stealing, or hitting a ‘devious lick’, is wrong, but don’t think students will continue to get away without consequence.
“This is something that if this does not stop, the consequences are going to have to escalate, and I don’t want that for any of my students,” Craig said. “Students are not here just to learn social studies and math and English and science, they’re here to learn life lessons as well, and that I feel is my responsibility as a school resource officer. If I’m doing my job effectively, it becomes my job to teach them those life lessons, some of which can be hard.”