As Idaho schools try to navigate the state’s worsening coronavirus pandemic, administrators now have another headache.
Stolen soap dispensers, damaged toilets and trashed bathrooms have become a disturbing trend in Treasure Valley schools in recent weeks, according to various districts.
Schools and law enforcement are investigating the incidents resembling the TikTok trend called “devious licks,” which highlights people wrecking school bathrooms. Spokespeople for the Boise, Kuna, Nampa and Caldwell school districts confirmed to the Idaho Statesman that bathrooms in their districts had been targeted.
The Ada County Sheriff’s Office has investigated incidents at Kuna High School and at two West Ada district schools, Eagle High and Lake Hazel Middle, Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Patrick Orr said via email.
School resource officers gathered evidence and asked Ada County prosecutors to file charges against four students at Kuna High and four students at Eagle High, Orr wrote. There were four incidents related to the TikTok trend at Lake Hazel, the Sheriff’s Office suspects, and it is considering asking prosecutors to file charges against two students there, according to Orr.
Damage also was found in Kuna’s two middle schools and at Kuna and Swan Falls high schools, spokesperson Allison Westfall wrote in an email to the Statesman. Toilets were plugged with toilet paper, soap dispensers were broken and soap was stolen. Students also were urinating on bathroom floors, and there was Kool-Aid spilled in bathrooms and graffiti found in locker rooms, she said.
Five students have been disciplined under school rules, Westfall wrote. The incidents last week were “presumed to be TikTok-related vandalism,” she said.
On Monday, the Idaho State Department of Education tweeted a warning about the growing trend.
Educators, Parents, Guardians: be aware that there is a current “trend” on social media encouraging the stealing or destruction of items in schools - Idaho schools have been affected. Help students understand these actions have consequences.
: PCSD25 https://t.co/ISb4wsjaM9 pic.twitter.com/Wjt7LL4JB5
— Idaho State Department of Education (@IdahoSDE) September 21, 2021
Boise School District spokesperson Dan Hollar wrote in an email that the district is working with law enforcement and using camera surveillance outside bathrooms to determine who is responsible for stealing soap, toilet paper and dispensers at schools.
“While the TikTok challenge may seem like an innocent prank to students, it has serious consequences,” Hollar wrote. “Not only are the stolen items expensive, but they are difficult to replace during the pandemic.”
In addition to potential legal trouble, people vandalizing the bathrooms could be charged for the cost of the damage and suspended from school and sports.
The Boise, Kuna, Nampa and Caldwell districts are encouraging parents and guardians to speak with their children about the dangers of damaging school property. The Kuna district even mentioned the trend to parents in its weekly newsletter last week.
Vandalism took place at two schools in the Caldwell School District and the damage is still being assessed, spokesperson Jessica Watts wrote in an email. Sinks, pipes, and soap and toilet paper dispensers were ripped off walls and stolen, according to a letter the district sent last week to parents.
Students are now allowed to use a designated bathroom, but all other bathrooms are closed until further notice, according to Watts.
“Our maintenance staff is working hard to replace the damaged or stolen items, only to find that the behavior is occurring repeatedly,” the Caldwell letter read. “Disciplinary action will be taken for any individuals that are identified as participating in these acts of vandalism. Please work to help us prevent this destructive behavior to preserve the maintenance, safety and pride of our schools.”
Kathleen Tuck, spokesperson for the Nampa School District, said in a phone interview that the district has seen some vandalism, but nothing overwhelming.
One of the main targets is soap dispensers, she said.
“It’s not a huge cost, but it is a cost,” Tuck said.
It’s getting hard to replace items, because schools across the country are seeing similar acts of vandalism and then trying to find the same supplies.
“We have people here working really, really hard just to keep up with COVID, so a lot of our janitorial staff, the last thing they need is to clean up vandalism,” Tuck said. “It’s just one more layer of stress and responsibility.”
Idaho Statesman reporter Becca Savransky contributed to this story.