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Orem closes park bathrooms early due to TikTok vandals, school districts attack too

By Genelle Pugmire - | Oct 14, 2021

One of the bathroom stall doors damaged after TikTok challenge. (Courtesy Orem City)

The clock could be running out for Utah County teenagers participating in the TikTok “Devious Licks” challenge and wreaking havoc at schools and on city park properties.

Orem reported it had to close all of its bathrooms in all the city parks early due to vandalism in September. The bathrooms are usually open through October.

Five parks had extensive destruction from soap dispensers being ripped off walls to spray painted vulgarities. Toilet stalls were destroyed and other items were broken or stolen, according to Jim Orr, parks section manager.

“We have four or five parks that have been vandalized,” Orr said. “Bonneville Park was hit three weeks in a row. We’d fix them and the vandals would be back the next week.”

Teenagers are encouraged periodically to participate in challenges that are videoed and then posted on TikTok. The issue is that some of these challenges have crossed the line into criminal offenses including assault, criminal mischief and vandalism.

One of the many stalls vandalized in an Orem Park thanks to TikTok. (Courtesy Orem city)

Orem parks vandalized include: Bonneville, Sharon, Cherry Hill, Palisades, Foothill, Orem Elementary and Community Park.

According to Orr, if a vandal gets caught the judge has most often made them give financial restitution and several hours of community service. The cost to taxpayers this September was about $7,500.

That’s what happened in Orem, but that’s not the end.

All three Utah County school districts report vandalism to at least the soap dispensers — which were the original target of the challenge.

In Provo it is considered criminal mischief and is a third degree felony. If caught, juveniles could be referred to the juvenile detention center. It also becomes a permanent record, according to Sgt. Nisha King, police spokeswoman.

The schools themselves had to deal with the vandalism in bathrooms. Alpine School District was not spared from the TikTok challenge.

“Last month, we had approximately $1,500 worth of damage done in school bathrooms throughout the district,” said David Stephenson, district spokesperson. “We sent an email out to parents requesting their assistance in talking with their students and the seriousness of these crimes.”

Stephenson said it seems to have worked since they haven’t heard of any reports with the challenge of slapping a faculty member.

Rumors of the “Slap a Teacher” challenge have bandied about social media for weeks, with more warnings and fear from school districts and parents than actual incidents. Teachers were reported to have been assaulted by students in Texas, Louisiana and Massachusetts as part of the “challenge.”

A portion of the letter to parents reads like this:

“As you may have heard, there is a nationwide social media trend called Devious Licks on TikTok that has so far cost schools across the district thousands of dollars in damages. Across the country, students have had significant consequences for things that they have done in these types of challenges. There is a new list circulating that includes theft, vandalism, assaulting people, and other serious crimes. Please talk to your students about how serious these challenges are and the long-term impacts they can have on them and others, including a possible criminal record. Please ensure that your child is not involved in any way, and if they see something, report it.”

The Provo School District also sent letters home after vandalism at their high schools. In September the school district had vandalism, particularly soap dispensers ripped from the walls, at both Provo High School and Timpview High School, according to Caleb Price, district spokesman.

“The line has been crossed when any challenge goes criminal,” King said. “Youth should be made aware of this fact.”

Nebo School District also had about $1,500 worth of vandalism in some schools, according to Lana Hiskey, district spokeswoman. She said the incidents were confined to one or two schools. While the district did not send out a letter to parents, Hiskey believes the individual schools did.

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