Why So Devious? The glorification of vandalism in the “Devious Lick” trend


Credit: Danica Harper

Senior Danica Harper’s cartoon strip from their 2nd period Art Class. The strip depicts the ongoing “Devious Lick” trend which involves students posting high school vandalism online and how teachers are concerned with the new behavior.

James Hauke, Multimedia Editor

As schools around the nation open their doors to students full-time for the first time in a year and a half, one phenomenon has also made an impressive return—high school vandalism.

If you have been on the social media platform TikTok at all for the past few weeks, you may have heard the phrase that has led to this recent surge in mischief: “I just pulled the most Devious Lick!” 

The viral trend known as the “Devious Lick” has students in schools throughout the country stealing classroom and bathroom supplies and recording the process for online clout. From classroom chairs to entire toilets and sinks, any school sanctioned loot that can be removed can grant you social points. 

For some, the Devious Lick trend is a great way to bring people back into the school year with some humor to lift the shadow of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However for others, who according to a Knight Life Instagram survey of 50 students, make up 60% of the Loy Norrix community, this is the continuation of a problematic school activity.

Loy Norrix alumni and security guard Karla Davis expresses her concerns with the trend, “It’s really childish to be vandalizing buildings and stuff that you actually have to keep yourself sanitized, especially with COVID and Delta [virus] going around — it’s not smart.” 

The main focus of the Devious Lick trend in September was the vandalism of school bathrooms. As students partake in the trend, a lot of supplies like soap and paper towels that students use to keep clean are stolen, which, as Davis points out, is a serious problem amidst a global pandemic.

Though bathrooms are a common place for Devious Licks, a misconception of the trend is that they can only occur in school bathrooms. Devious Licks include classroom property, which poses its own set of challenges.

Within the first few weeks of school, English teacher and Knight Life advisor Tisha Pankop had already noticed the presence of a Devious Lick in her own classroom. 

“I have these chairs and the backs of them you can just lift them off,” Pankop explained. “so one day, at the end of the day, I noticed that one of my chairs was missing the back. I didn’t know if this was a Devious Lick. Maybe some student pulled a prank. But then, the next day, another chair back was missing, so it did make me think that this was a devious lick.” 

The most Devious Licks seem to target the most useful school property. With the vandalism of chairs for students to sit in or the soap and towel dispensers in the bathrooms for students to wash their hands, students are unable to go about their day undisturbed due to the actions of another student.

“That’s more than just harming the facilities that you use, that’s actually causing harm to other people as well,” said principal Christopher Aguinaga in response to the ongoing trend.

As a high school principal, Aguinaga is no stranger to the concept of high school vandalism. 

“We’ve had to close bathrooms in the past, which you probably heard me on the announcements before COVID saying, ‘stop tearing stuff up,’” continued Aguinaga.

Davis chose to reminisce on her time at Norrix as a student, when thinking about the history of vandalism, “In ‘09, when I was a senior here, we didn’t vandalize: we had fun, we engaged in pride days. Our school was something we took pride in, so vandalism was something we totally didn’t do at all,” Davis said. 

In 2009, social media, in comparison to today, was relatively new. Davis lived in a time where your thoughts were not easily accessible online as they are today. 

Short video sharing websites such as Vine, Snapchat, and in today’s instance, TikTok, were not even released until the 2010’s, with TikTok being the most recent application on the list, released in 2016. 

According to the article “TikTok Revenue and Usage Statistics (2021)” by Mansoor Iqbal for Business of Apps, 28 percent of the 1 billion TikTok users are under the age of 18.

With the growth of social media platforms among younger generations, high school students are now able to communicate with each other and share their thoughts and actions easily, which in the case of high school vandalism, allows students to record their rebellious acts for recognition online.

“This is almost the glorification of vandalism. So it almost takes it to another level,”  said Aguinaga in response to the difference between Devious Licks and vandalism prior. 

“It’s not just kids being naughty, it’s kids wanting glory for being naughty,” said Aguinaga. 

As more of these videos are posted, more and more students join in. 

On September 23, Aguinaga informed the student body on the Loy Norrix morning announcements that a day prior, three students were caught lighting fire to paper products in one of the school’s bathrooms. Though no students were in danger, this instance is reason for heightened concern.

Principal Aguinaga said, “The events have reinforced my opinion that ‘it is here!.’ It also reinforced my faith in the staff of LN to quickly ID safety issues and mitigate them. I am worried more property could be damaged, so we are taking more enhanced efforts to secure LN property.” 

Although the events on September 23 were not necessarily a Devious Lick, there is this connection between vandalism and the ability for social media to highlight these acts of rebellion. With social media, various concepts are put to the extreme, and with the mob mentality behind Devious Licks, some students find themselves lost in the eyes of destruction.

When thinking about why students have participated in high school vandalism over the years, whether it be a Devious Lick or a simple act of destruction, there seems to be a common understanding among Loy Norrix staff.

“When I was in college, I studied child development, and one thing we studied in adolescence was that young people tend to go through some type of rebellion.” Pankop continued,  “Whether it’s ‘I’m gonna wear clothes that break a dress code’ or ‘speed in my car over the speed limit,’ and even as a teenager myself I know I often pushed the boundaries. So I think in some regard it’s a natural stage in development that young people like to push the boundaries of and see what happens,.” 

Aguinaga added the fact that student’s actions are often in response to something personal going on. 

“For a kid to tear up a bathroom. I take a step back and I think ‘Okay, what is going on with that child?’ There’s gotta be some trauma or something with that young person that is making them outburst to the point where they are destroying property. But maybe that’s just me, always looking for the good in people.”

When presented with a challenge students decide to reach for attention in any possible outlet, one of the extremes being vandalism. However, as Devious Licks may be the result of frustration in students, there’s a new trend that strikes a balance, with a sense of kindness.

In response to the Devious Lick trend, high school students on TikTok have started a new trend known as “Angelic Yields.” Unlike the vandalism found within a Devious Lick, an Angelic Yield involves students repairing or fixing property in their schools, such as turning a bathroom into a luxurious lounge for students. 

Aguinaga was relieved to hear of this new trend and said, “I think that’s awesome, that’s good community service. I think that just re-enforces the fact that people deep down, young or old, are good.”

Some students have even gone as far as repaying their teachers with an Angelic Yield. 

“I really love how young people who get frustrated with other young people their age are so creative to come up with basically the opposite. Apparently students are bringing teachers coffee. That’s amazing. I love Water Street coffee, black, if anyone was planning to bring some coffee to me,” Pankop jokingly said “That’s how I would order it.”

As the Devious Lick trend showcases the destruction that some students can cause, Angelic Yields provide an integral insight into the willingness of students to do good.