Staff and students were already dealing with a social media-sparked problem unlike anything they had ever seen as Shadle Park High School junior Zachary Pugh struggled to find an unlocked restroom in the building recently. When he finally found one, the problems only continued.
“These bathrooms are always locked, and I just want to go to the bathroom, man,” Pugh said. “And people are stealing soap dispensers. I just want to wash my hands after using the bathroom and they’re all gone!”
As staff have cracked down on the social media stunt dubbed the “Devious Lick Challenge,” the trend has been on the decline. But for the first few weeks of the school year, it caused confusion in schools across the country as teenagers vandalized school restrooms and displayed the results on social media – in particular, on the video-sharing service TikTok.
At North Central and Shadle Park high schools, as well as Coeur d’Alene Public Schools, the most consistent incidents were the theft or displacement of soap, toilet paper and paper towel dispensers.
In a Coeur d’Alene school, a stall door was unhinged, and inside Shadle Park restrooms, toilets were filled with carrots and a urinal pipe was completely removed.
In his first year as Shadle Park’s principal, Chris Dunn and administrative staff found themselves tasked with trying to solve these rather strange capers.
To combat the issue, more staff have been around the restrooms, only one student is allowed to leave class to use the restroom at a time, students may not be allowed to use the restroom during the first and last five minutes of class, and, during class times, multiple restrooms have been locked and unavailable.
“We tried to set it up so there were restrooms where we had people closer by so we could provide more supervision in the general vicinity, obviously not in the bathroom, but in that area,” Dunn said. “We made sure that there was still one that was relatively close so that it wasn’t multiple flights of stairs or anything like that to find a restroom.”
Many students haven’t welcomed the changes.
“I’m trying to use the bathroom and they’re all locked; the ones that aren’t can be very out-of-the-way or just full of kids vaping,” Shadle student Owen Dunkin said.
“I’ve been late to third period, like, six times because I can’t find a bathroom,” said junior Jackson Ruchti.
Coeur d’Alene Public Schools implemented a $50 reward for “any information that leads to the identification of the person or persons that are responsible for the vandalism,” according to a message from Coeur d’Alene Public Schools shared to families of Lake City High School students.
The incentive system “was something that we thought about and it came up, but we just never finalized it and we took some different measures to try and address it instead,” Dunn said. “But that may be something we would look at in the future.”
Some students have been caught by determining who was in the restroom from the time it was untouched to when it was vandalized, restitution being a common result.
But more serious actions may end up being taken. According to Coeur d’Alene Public Schools Director of Communications Scott Maben, students could be suspended, expelled or prosecuted through the juvenile justice system.
Damage is hard to put a price on, with not only theft and vandalism, but the cost of people such as janitors fixing the issues. Maben noted that Coeur d’Alene Public Schools have been facing some janitorial staffing issues and the extra problems can be a struggle to get fixed, along with the fact that hygiene is of the utmost importance because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s hard to maintain when soap dispensers vanish.
“They took our soap dispensers!” Shadle Park High School junior Connor Bayless exclaimed, fellow student Noah Dunlap adding, “And our urinal pipes!”
As with Pugh, the common theme among Shadle Park students was frustration with the results of the challenge, and the locked bathroom strategy punishing the majority of students for the acts of few.
“It’s stupid that everyone isn’t able to go to the restroom over some kids demolishing school property because of a TikTok trend,” junior Jayce Rodriguez said.
“At first I thought it was kind of funny after seeing it on TikTok, but after a couple days I was like ‘Man, this is pretty stupid,’ ” said senior Matthew Nitchman.
What this challenge means for school culture is what Dunn and Maben found the most concerning.
“I think the bigger thing that it tells me is, we have to find a way to help everybody see and have pride in our school community, because I would guess that you’re not taking a lot of pride in the moment saying, ‘I’m willing to vandalize this.’ So we have to work on and address that,” Dunn said.
“I think it’s unfortunate; I think it’s immature and ridiculous,” Maben said.
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