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Halifax school still repairing damage after TikTok challenge prompts vandalism

Click to play video: 'Halifax schools receive about 20 vandalism reports linked to TikTok trend' Halifax schools receive about 20 vandalism reports linked to TikTok trend
The Halifax Regional Centre for Education says a disturbing social media trend leading to vandalism has been reported at about 20 schools since the start of the school year. A spokesperson says vandalism is a costly act, and encourages families to talk to their kids. Callum Smith reports – Nov 4, 2021

Damage to school washrooms will hopefully be repaired soon, says a Grade 12 student in Halifax.

Finn MacDonald says he’s on social media, but not TikTok.

However, videos posted on the platform have caused trouble at schools across North America, including 15 to 20 junior and senior high schools within the Halifax region, according to the Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE).

The ‘devious licks’ challenge is an apparent trend, where students steal from and vandalize school washrooms.

MacDonald says a couple washrooms in his school were hit by similar actions in September, but the damage remains.

“There’s no mirrors, there’s no paper towel, there’s no soap,” he says. “And there’s graffiti on the walls and stuff as well.”

Read more: English Montreal School Board warns parents about new TikTok ‘devious licks’ challenge

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He says that’s an obvious concern, especially during the pandemic.

HRCE says a small number of students have caused vandalism in Halifax West male washrooms since school began.

“Vandalism costs time, money and disrupts learning. It unnecessarily creates expenses when we would like our funds targeting learning resources and experiences for students,” HRCE spokesperson Doug Hadley tells Global News.

“Every time it is reported, it is addressed by our custodial and maintenance staff. However, the pandemic has resulted in ongoing delays in getting necessary supplies and equipment and it has impacted our ability to fix the vandalism in a timely manner.”

Hadley says staff are fixing dispensers and painting walls this week.

HRCE is encouraging families to talk to students, but says the students’ council at Halifax West is working on a campaign to address this issue.

For its part, TikTok says the platform doesn’t allow content “that promotes or enables criminal activities.”

In a statement, TikTok tells Global News that they are removing the content, as well as redirecting hashtags and search results to their Community Guidelines, to discourage the behaviour.

Giles Crouch, a Halifax-based digital anthropologist, says technology is a “double-edged sword.”

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Read more: B.C. students stealing soap, dispensers from schools as part of TikTok challenge

“There’s always the good and the bad. There’s an awful lot of good things that happen on social media, people helping each other, and we see, you know, some fun stuff, relaxing stuff that takes our mind off of things,” Crouch says. “But then we see things like the devious licks. That’s one of the downsides.”

He adds that trends like this are hard to control.

“We have to remember that when the teenage brain is not fully like an adult brain and one of those things is their prefrontal cortex, so teenagers can’t really think through the consequences of their actions.”

And MacDonald doesn’t understand the motive.

“It is very disturbing,” he says. “I don’t know why or how they do it. And it’s a shame that the washrooms are like this.”

“I definitely think we’ll have to do something because people do need to wash their hands,” MacDonald says.

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