A bathroom at Roosevelt High School with all soap dispensers stolen. Photo by Erick Trujillo.

Educational leaders in California are warning schools about a new disturbing Tik Tok challenge that urges students to slap a teacher or a staff member while recording it on video.

It’s the latest version of the so-called Devious Licks challenge that emerged last month and had middle and high school students recording themselves while vandalizing bathrooms and stealing school property, then posting the videos on the social media network.

On Tuesday, the California Teachers Assn posted an online warning about the challenge.

“As if widespread vandalism in our schools last month wasn’t enough, the same “challenge” circulating on social media networks TikTok and Twitter is now calling for students to “slap a staff member,” the statement reads.

One elementary school teacher in South Carolina was hit in the back of the head, according to media reports, but the challenge does not appear to have caught on in Southern California.  

The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that the Los Angeles Unified School District has not had any reports of students slapping teachers. A district spokesperson told the paper it has alerted schools of the TikTok challenges.

Damages and consequences of vandalism

LAUSD has not said how much damage its schools suffered because of last month’s Devious Licks challenge. At various Eastside high schools, students reported numerous instances of items stolen –mostly from bathrooms– such as soap dispensers and toilet paper holders.

A 16-year-old junior at Roosevelt High School who did not want to be identified said that a student boasted of stealing a world globe from his history classroom. Another Roosevelt student, a 14-year-old freshman, said she saw two students trying to put a “wet floor” sign inside their backpack.

“They are taking stuff from schools… just taking it for clout,” the 14-yer-old said.

Students at various Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles schools said the challenge forced their schools to temporarily close or limit access to the bathrooms.

According to Eileen Perez, a 16-year-old student at Roosevelt, the bathroom closures punished students who were not involved in the Tik Tok challenge.

“Instead of having available restrooms throughout our campus, we are now forced to walk at least five minutes if we want to go to the restroom,” she said. “We’re forced to move through different buildings, and it just makes restrooms less accessible, which makes it harder for us. And it takes away from our learning time.” 

Marissa Lopez, another 16-year-old at Roosevelt, said school authorities should take strong measures to prevent the challenges from spreading.

“If a student is caught doing this trend, I feel like they should be suspended and let other students know the consequences of this, so they would be too scared to even try it.” she said.

Last month, some school principals sent parents a phone message prepared by LAUSD, warning parents about the gravity of the Devious Licks challenge, and how serious offenses could get their children in trouble.

“As a school community, we share the responsibility to maintain a safe and secure campus. I ask that you speak to your child about the seriousness of this type of unsafe and unacceptable behavior,” the message said in part.

In its message on Tuesday, the CTA spelled out the potential consequences of the latest version of the Devious Licks challenge.

“Slapping an educator, regardless of whether it results in injury, is assault and battery, and is completely unacceptable,” the organization said. “Recording in a classroom or on other school property without permission is illegal. In addition to potential serious harm to victims, a student perpetrator could face serious consequences, including expulsion or criminal prosecution.”

Originally seen as a passing trend, Devious Licks now appears to be an ongoing challenge scheduled to change from month to month. Various media have reported of a list circulating online with upcoming challenges. Among them, “Kiss your friend’s girlfriend at school” for November, “Jab a breast” for January or “Make a mess in the courtyard or cafeteria” for March.

In a statement, TikTok has said it will remove videos promoting the behavior if they are posted online.

With reporting by April Aguilera, Xitlali Gonzalez, Andrea Quintana, Sophia Romero, Samantha Ruano and Erick Trujillo.

Boyle Heights Beat is a bilingual community newspaper produced by its youth "por y para la comunidad". The newspaper and its sister website serve an immigrant neighborhood in East Los Angeles of just under...

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