Devious or delinquent?

West Ottawa Parent Seth Guerrin, father of Kira, Emma, and Tori Guerrin.

West Ottawa Parent Seth Guerrin, father of Kira, Emma, and Tori Guerrin.

Shylah Dozeman

He came back to class victorious. All of his friends anticipated his return as they knew he had captured the prized possession. Something so simple, yet so treasured. As he marveled at the sight with his buddies, he felt a tap on his shoulder. He was caught. 

   He was brought down to the office for his inevitable demise. He imagined his future: five days of suspension, grounding, and cleaning. All for a bag of soap. 

   “I was trying to be funny,” he said. “I got the idea from watching videos of it all over TikTok.”

   Schools across the country are suffering from stolen bathroom essentials, from toilet paper rolls to sinks, and other sanitary items such as masks and hand sanitizer. School administrations are forced to close bathrooms and send letters home to parents educating them on the new “devious lick” trend. 

   West Ottawa has felt the impact of the illegal trend (started on the popular app TikTok), and the administration is not hesitating to reprimand students for their actions.

   “There’s been some bathrooms that have been vandalized pretty severely,” Security Action Team Member Keenan Montoya said. “Just around the corner at Hudsonville they had like $30,000 worth of Chromebooks and electronics stolen too.”

   When making a decision, one must evaluate if the benefits of an outcome outweigh the costs.  For some decisions, like deciding which college to attend or who to be friends with, it is difficult to make a choice. However, when deciding whether or not to participate in the devious licks trend, clearly the risks heavily outweigh the rewards. 

   One might wonder if there are any benefits to participating in the trend, but there is something almost everyone dreams of: Fame. Likes, comments, and follows overwhelm the teenage brain. But to a lesser extent, just making friends laugh or impressing that special person may encourage someone to participate.

   The TikTok trend is most infamously filmed with a sped up version of Lil B’s song “Ski Ski BasedGod,” with the hashtag “devious lick,” as a student pulls the stolen item out of a backpack.  Now on TikTok, if someone looks up “devious lick,” a link to the community guidelines is displayed instead of the array of videos. 

   However, teens have found a way to continue the trend by replacing the word “devious” with “despicable” or “diabolical.” Although these videos receive thousands, if not millions, of views, the praise is not worth the possibility of jail time. 

   West Ottawa Teacher Livingston Garland said, “At first when I heard about ‘devious licks,’ I thought people were just licking doorknobs or something, but it turned out to be much worse. I don’t even understand why people would take a soap dispenser, it is simply ineffable.”

   The influence social media has on teenagers is strong, but TikTok alone is an enormous beast to tackle. The app stemmed off from as a place to learn new dances and gain popularity, but now has become a huge impact in many teens’ lives.

   People are willing to risk their future on a trend that may or may not make them popular for a few minutes. Not only can students get suspended from school, but vandalism and destruction of property is a misdemeanor and can tarnish somebody’s record. Say goodbye to college scholarships, dream jobs, and freedom. 

   West Ottawa’s Head of Security Ryan Lancaster started catching students stealing items from the restrooms, but then realized they were all connected. “We started paying closer attention and noticed that instead of isolated incidents, it appeared to be almost like an orchestrated attack in our restrooms,” Lancaster said. 

   Thankfully at West Ottawa, theft has been mostly “petty things meant to inconvenience someone’s day,” Montoya said. One of the most popular items to “lick” is a bag of soap out of the bathroom, since it is one of the easiest items to conceal and doesn’t do much damage. But that doesn’t mean the trend is harmless. 

   “There’s petty vandalism, which is frustrating for the adults who have to clean it, even if it’s not in their job description,” Lancaster said. “But when you rip off a soap dispenser from the wall that’s a larceny of over $100. So [there] could be some serious legal troubles and I think a lot of kids don’t realize that.” 

   When it comes to discipline, West Ottawa is not afraid to put down the hammer. “They’ve turned it over to Ottawa County, so we do our referrals and proper documentation, and we allow the school officers to decide if they want to follow through with any of the other charges that may be applicable to the offence,” Montoya said. 

   Although people believe that the worst punishment for a school matter could be suspension or expulsion; however, people can receive misdemeanors and potentially stain their record. “It’s not just school disciplinary action, it’s legal matters too,” Lancaster said. 

   “I definitely think kids are going to be kids and we want to let them learn but at the same time we have to draw a line somewhere,” Montoya said. “We like to let kids know ahead of time to think before you act and it could potentially land you somewhere in the future where a teacher can’t save you.”  

   The trend has become a hassle for everyone, not just those who participate. Because of destruction to the bathrooms, some of them have been closed to minimize the delinquent activity. The closings force students to go to a select few bathrooms, wait in long lines, arrive tardy to class, and miss more class time by having to walk farther. 

 “I hate it so much. People need to grow up and understand that no one finds it ‘funny’ to steal stuff because it’s rude to everyone. Especially as high schoolers, we should know better [and] shouldn’t have to wait in line to use the bathroom just because some people thought it would be funny to try and steal,” Jr. Katie Marroquin said. 

   “Devious licks” alone shows the immense power of social media and the risks students are willing to take for fifteen minutes of fame.