‘Completely unacceptable’ behavior has schools dealing with students who steal, vandalize

Middletown Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. said he's concerned about recent vandalism and threats of violence in the district. FILE PHOTO
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Middletown Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. said he's concerned about recent vandalism and threats of violence in the district. FILE PHOTO

Butler County districts asking parents to address concerns with children amid viral TikTok trend.

Threats of school violence. Soap dispensers ripped off bathroom walls and soap squirted on the floors. Sponsorship banners stolen. Paper towel dispensers vandalized.

These are a few examples of the theft and vandalism provoked by a viral TikTok trend that has some Butler County school districts disciplining students and asking parents to address their concerns with their children.

The so-called “devious lick” challenge, which has been reported by school districts throughout the country, encourages students to share videos of their mischief on TikTok.

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According to Urban Dictionary, “lick” is slang for a “successful type of theft which results in an acceptable, impressive and rewarding payday for the protagonist.”

TikTok has discouraged the trend by removing associated hashtags and redirecting users to a company statement on criminal activity.

After there was a threat of school violence at Middletown High over the weekend, additional police officers patrolled the school Monday morning, according to district officials. Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. said the district worked with its school resource officers, staff, and Middletown police officers to figure out if the high school threat was “credible.”

There were no reports of violence.

But several Butler County districts said students have vandalized school property, and once caught, have faced appropriate discipline for their actions, according to officials.

Most of the vandalism in Middletown has occurred in the bathrooms, the district said. After the soap dispensers were pulled off the walls, hand sanitizer stations were placed outside the bathrooms.

Two sponsorship banners that cost $200 each were stolen off a fence at the soccer field.

Besides Middletown, Madison and Monroe school officials said they’re concerned about the recent spike in vandalism, apparently tied to the social media app TikTok.

Hamilton City Schools have seen “minimal issues,” according to a district official. Lakota, the largest district in the county, had some soap dispensers vandalized, said Betsy Fuller, a district spokeswoman. She said building principals are “on it” and have communicated to parents.

Madison Superintendent Jeff Staggs posted a note on the district’s Facebook page. In part, it read, the TikTok Challenge “encourages students to damage and steal school property.”

He asked parents to talk to their children “regarding expectations with behavior and what their actions result in.”

Monroe Superintendent Robert Buskirk, who was hired on Aug. 1, called the vandalism “ridiculous” and said Monroe has experienced “a few minor cases.”

He said after the videos were posted to TikTok, fellow students reported their classmates and were disciplined.

“There will be serious consequences,” Buskirk said. “We are not taking this lightly. I hope it’s a fad that dies out quickly.”

Styles called the vandalism and threat of violence toward students and staff “completely unacceptable” and Middletown will “certainly not tolerate it.”

He encouraged parents and guardians to speak to their students about this trend to ensure they understand the severity of their actions. He said these situations will be investigated and students will be subject to disciplinary, and possibly criminal, consequences.

Styles said any student with information regarding who might be stealing from the district, damaging district property, and/or participating in the threats of violence, should email MHS Principal Carmela Cotter at ccotter@middletowncityschools.com or call the Middletown Police Department at 513-425-7704.

“To be clear, we will not tolerate this type of criminal behavior and disrespect to our schools and staff,” he said. “We appreciate your help in addressing these behaviors.”

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