The Lodi Police Department is investigating a series of vandalism incidents at Lodi High School this week that are believed to be inspired by a viral social media challenge.
“The rumor is there is a TikTok (a video-sharing social network) challenge going on where students are doing things like removing fixtures and furniture from school bathrooms,” School Resource Officer Brannon Haro said. “We want to get the word out that if anyone is caught, we will make arrests and we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Lodi High Principal Adam Auerbach delivered an automated message to parents that several restrooms on campus had been closed that day because someone caused “thousands of dollars worth” of damage.
In his message, Auerbach said toilets, soap and towel dispensers and ceiling tiles had been ripped from the walls. The vandalism had been occurring for the past week, he said.
Auerbach on Thursday said the incidents have been occurring over the last month, but there have been three in the last week alone, and the amount of damage has escalated.
“Ceiling tiles have been knocked out, and that falls in line with the TikTok challenge,” he said.
“We’ve had walls knocked in, partition stalls taken down. Yesterday we found a pipe to a urinal had been removed, so water was shooting out of the wall and flooding the building.”
Three of six Lodi High restrooms have been vandalized, all of which are boys’ rooms, Auerbach said.
He and his administrative staff have limited use of the restrooms to certain hours of the day, and they are monitoring the entrances to make sure students do not destroy more property.
“We had several students come forward yesterday to report the damage to us,” he said. “They’re getting pretty ticked off at having to trek across campus to use a restroom.”
The TikTok challenge, known as the “devious lick” or “bathroom challenge” has been reported by various media outlets across the country over the last week.
The challenge encourages students to steal items such as toilets, dispensers and mirrors from school restrooms, then post them on social media.
According to WKRN in Tennessee, several students in Williamson County are facing criminal charges this week after ripping soap dispensers off restroom walls, clogging toilets with paper towels, breaking urinals and removing tiles and partitions.
In Tulsa County, Okla., not only are restrooms being vandalized, but electronics are being stolen from classrooms as part of the challenge as well, a local Fox affiliate reported.
The Desert News in Utah reported this week that one school district experienced students breaking mirrors in the restrooms, hallways and locker rooms. Even school exit signs had been stolen, reports state.
Haro said punishment for the students involved depends on how much damage was done to the restrooms. If the damage is more than $450, the students will face felony charges. Damage less than that will constitute a misdemeanor.
“If you factor in how much the parts cost, and how much labor is going to be expended replacing and fixing everything, it could add up to more than $450,” Haro said.
Auerbach said Wednesday’s incident caused more than $500, and the district is estimating more than $2,000 in damage for all three instances.
“It’s extremely frustrating, because there is seemingly no sense of (the vandalism),” he said.
After his message to parents Wednesday, Auerbach said there had been no reports of further vandalism, and he hopes there will not be any more incidents in the future.
“I tell my students that we have to take care of the restrooms as if we were taking care of each other,” he said.
“My ultimate hope is that they recognize the needs of others are more important than their own.”
In a statement to CBS46 in Atlanta, where similar incidents have occurred, a TikTok spokesman said the social media platform “does not allow content that promotes or enables criminal activities. We are removing this content and redirecting hashtags and search results to our community guidelines to discourage such behavior.”