Implications of “devious licks” thefts still being felt by district

Even as thefts slow down, the trends harmful implications on finances and resources are still prominent

By Arien Roman Rojas, Co-Editor in Chief of The Budget

Administration, custodians and students are still dealing with the aftermath of the vandalism and thefts associated with the “devious licks” TikTok trend.

The trend, which consists of stealing school property, caused a great deal of stress for the adults in the building. 

“It doesn’t make sense and it is annoying to have to spend your time trying to figure out who’s tearing things up,” Principal Jessica Bassett said.

What many students doing these acts of vandalism didn’t realize was that other people, like custodians and administrators, would have to deal with the consequences of their actions.

Staff has had to deal with cleaning up the spaces and tracking down students who did them, mostly through the use of security cameras and reports by other students. The trend caused the lockdown of bathrooms across the school.

“I don’t know why they need to lick every single bathroom, I spend like 20 minutes of the class just walking to and from bathrooms,” senior Izzy Paradis said. 

Custodians were especially inconvenienced by this trend. Because of the ongoing pandemic, they already have to disinfect the school in order to protect us from COVID-19, which is an increase to their normal, pre-pandemic workload. 

The custodial staff is also severely understaffed, most already had to work overtime in order to compensate for the time lost due to summer construction. 

“A good chunk of the summer we weren’t allowed in the entire building,” Travis McFerson, supervisor custodian said. “By the time they opened it, a week or two before school even started we had to do a whole summer’s worth of work in like one week or two weeks.”

Add having to clean up inappropriate graffiti, urine on the walls, plumbing issues from purposeful clogging of toilets, and urinals that started to flood, and you can understand why custodians are stressed out from working overtime.

“At least a hundred hours every two weeks. So that’s an extra twenty hours, an extra ten hours a week,” McFerson said. “Most of it is getting stuff done that we wanted to get done but we couldn’t because we had to clean up the vandalism. It’s a lot of hours.”

Incidents like these have appeared everywhere in the district, not just at LHS yet they were unexpected since administrators expected better from students. 

“When I first heard about this happening nationally, I thought, our scholars wouldn’t do this here in Lawrence. We are better than this,” Superintendent Anthony Lewis said.

Because of a tight budget, the district is forced to reapportion funds to fix the damages. 

“There are serious consequences for vandalism and theft,” Lewis said. “Our schools report theft and property damage to law enforcement, so this destructive behavior can also have legal consequences for students.”

Students who steal or vandalize school property are held financially responsible for their actions. If they are minors, their parents will be responsible for compensating the cost. However, if the student was eighteen at the time they are responsible for the damages they caused. 

Currently, the cost of the vandalism and thefts, as well as the increased pay that administration has had to give to custodians and ground staff is unknown since records that indicate the amount of money spent are still being gathered by the district.

To fight against the vandalism, staff have implemented a more monitored environment. Most of the bathrooms that were shut down initially are opening up again, but in order to leave the classroom, students must have a pass from their teacher to confirm to administrators that they are allowed to be in the hallways.

 “We want students to continue to use the learning spaces and the hallways to learn because that’s why they were designed,” Bassett said. “With the pass system we know that you have permission to be there and your teacher trusts you to be there.”

Administration doesn’t want these recent actions to define the school. As they struggle to patch up the severe acts committed by a small percentage of students, they seek to support the majority who are doing what is right.

“We’re going to try to be committed to making sure that we don’t keep our students from enjoying all the amenities of this building and this space,”  Bassett said, “and the freedoms and opportunities that they have because a small group hasn’t matured enough to handle it.”