School pranks have taken on a new and more serious form … “devious licks.”
Innocent school pranks have been around since the beginning of … well, school. Recently though, students have used social media platforms to engage in and incite more serious forms of school vandalism through TikTok and Facebook challenges. These challenges are spread using hashtags like #deviouslicks and #diabolicallicks and feature videos of students vandalizing bathrooms and smart boards, setting off stink bombs, stealing face masks, and even taking computers (NYT). In another alarming trend, a user attempted to start a challenge for students to slap a teacher (NYT). TikTok and Facebook have addressed these challenges, but they continue to arise in new forms.
In contrast to traditional school pranks, which were considered mischievous, these viral challenges are nefarious, and many involve criminal acts. School districts have imposed suspensions, pressed charges, and filed for restitution. In addition to being more serious, the challenges are communicated at lightning-fast speeds and are circulated widely, leaving administrators and staff with little time to react.
Fortunately, administrators can take action to protect their schools and school communities from these challenges. While each situation is different, here are some steps school leaders can consider and tailor for their schools to strategically approach viral vandalism.
Steps to Help School Administrators Address Viral Vandalism
- Call a faculty meeting. Meet with teachers, custodians, and support staff to be on the lookout and be vigilant. Ask staff to notify you if they hear any rumors of new challenges or see any evidence of vandalism.
- Enlist the help of the greater school community. Get assistance from administrators, teachers, guidance counselors, school resource officers, school psychologists, coaches, community members, and volunteers.
- Consider whether to address challenges directly with students. Decide whether your strategy will be to discuss the viral challenges openly to get student input or to avoid the topic if you believe it will fuel the challenge.
- Involve students in a solution. If you decide to address it openly, consider forming a digital citizenship team or club and enlist the help of students to motivate their peers toward positive actions. Students may also have access to emerging viral challenges adults may not have (everyone can use a little intel).
- Hold a student assembly. Encourage students to be good role models, take pride in their school, and practice digital responsibility. Boost anti-bullying efforts.
- Consider stress levels of all parties. Keep in mind the stress and strain students, teachers, staff, and administrators are under when developing an approach. Stressors can include fears of catching COVID, pressure of enforcing COVID protocols, catching up on lost learning, social pressure to impress peers, impacts of social media, behavioral health issues, and more.
- Involve parents. Reach out to parents and get their support to help deter these challenges, foster pride in the school, and model responsible digital use at home.
- Survey school grounds. Identify areas which may be conducive to vandalism, such as partially hidden areas where students can congregate, alcoves by stairways, delivery docks, etc. (ASU)
- Invest in vandalism prevention. Purchase vandalism-resistant sinks and toilets, single-sheet toilet paper, and non-glass mirrors. Consider cameras and other security measures.
- Lock areas that are not in use. Lock unoccupied classrooms, gyms, cafeterias, weight room, art room, band room, locker rooms, etc. Prohibit students from entering areas that have been vandalized. Secure supplies which may be targets for theft and vandalism.
Having a flexible plan can help all members of the school community feel safe and reduce the risk of vandalism at your school.