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Anchorage School District fighting wave of vandalism inspired by TikTok trend

Missing tiles in a West Anchorage High School bathroom are attributed to student vandalism.
Missing tiles in a West Anchorage High School bathroom are attributed to student vandalism.(ktuu)
Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 5:26 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage School District is asking parents to talk with their children about a wave of vandalism that is costing the district thousands of dollars. The trend is inspired by videos on the social media platform TikTok that encourage students to vandalize their school bathrooms and post the videos online.

The trend, called “devious licks” is happening nationwide, but District Secondary Education Director Kersten Johnson said it seems to have come to Anchorage in just the last week.

“We’ve seen something at just about every middle and high school,” Johnson said, adding that there have been at least 80 incidents across the district.

“With the number of incidents that we’ve had throughout the district it’s definitely in the tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage, unfortunately,” she said.

West Anchorage High School Principal Sven Gustafson said his school has been averaging several incidents a day. Soap and paper towel dispensers ripped off walls, toilet seats and stall doors broken and often a big mess left behind that can take an hour or more to clean up.

Gustafson said he’s disappointed by the vandalism and also by the students who are doing it.

“It’s kids that have never been in trouble before in their lives,” he said. “It’s kids that have never been suspended or never have done anything so stupid. And here they’re trying to get their one minute of fame off of TikTok and they’re getting into trouble.”

Some schools are fighting back by locking their bathrooms during passing time and limiting the ones that students can use during other times. At West High, that started on Tuesday. Students are required to get a note from a teacher if they need to use the restroom during class times.

“Now we’ve actually had to limit it, so it’s only during class time, because we can’t trust it during passing time,” Gustafson said. “So kids have to get passes so we know which kids are out of class, which kids are using the restroom if something was to happen. And that’s sad because we shouldn’t have to be dealing with this.”

Johnson said there have been suspensions across the district related to the vandalism. Anchorage police are also involved, and in some cases charges have been filed against students. In the near future, she said, parents may also get a bill for any damage to school property their child has caused.

Johnson said they want parents to help them stop the behavior and added that students who have information can always report it anonymously to their teachers or school principal.

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