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Nebraska students stealing soap dispensers, toilet seats as part of TikTok challenge

Nebraska students stealing soap dispensers, toilet seats as part of TikTok challenge

The summer's viral sensation involves stacking milk crates nd then attempting to climb them. #MilkCrateChallenge had taken over the popular video creating app.

The student opens up a backpack and pulls out a dripping soap dispenser.

In the video posted online, the student then zooms in on the logo printed on the dispenser: Omaha Public Schools.

At school districts across the state and nation, students have been stealing such items as soap dispensers and toilet seats and posting videos about it to the social media platform TikTok.

The videos are posted online in what is known as the “devious licks” challenge.

Typically, the videos show students removing items they have taken from school out of their backpacks.

Locally, students and school officials said they have noticed missing soap dispensers, toilet seats, hand dryers, a fire extinguisher, a clock, erasers, cords, markers and even an attempted sink theft.

Other students have now started posting videos to TikTok of trashed bathrooms or missing soap dispensers in a plea to get their fellow students to stop participating in the challenge.

Rebecca Kleeman, a spokeswoman for Millard Public Schools, said dozens of soap dispensers have been taken from middle and high schools in the district. Someone also tried to take a mirror.

Kleeman said that while students may see it as a social media challenge, it is property damage.

“When it happens, we investigate it and students face consequences and restitution,” Kleeman said. “We don’t just let it go. We chase it.”

Kleeman said the district has plenty of soap, dispensers and hand sanitizer to replace the missing items.

Along with being exceedingly immature, Kleeman said the thefts are frustrating for the district’s hardworking custodial staffers who have been working to keep schools clean during the pandemic.

OPS spokeswoman Bridget Blevins said district officials are aware of incidents in schools related to the trends.

“We take these matters seriously,” Blevins said in a statement. “Omaha Public Schools will address such incidents following our student code of conduct. Our district will also engage our law enforcement partners, if necessary.”

Blevins said the district is encouraging families to partner with the district in guiding students in the use of good judgment for their safety and the safety of others.

Bathrooms at Westside Community Schools also have been hit.

“We will continue to communicate with our students and our families about the consequences that result from poor decisions on social media or with technology,” the district said in a statement.

Next week, the school district will host a Digital Citizenship Forum for all families and teenagers in the community to share information about social media, what to watch for and the long-lasting consequences that could result from one bad decision online or on a phone.

The forum on Sept. 23 starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Westside High School Auditorium and will go over topics such as cyberbullying, online safety, sexting, online predators and school and legal consequences.

Other school districts, like Elkhorn Public Schools, said they have seen very light activity related to the social media trend with items of little value.

Annette Eyman, spokeswoman for Papillion La Vista Community Schools, said her district started seeing the trend last week, but it appears to be slowing down.

The Bellevue Police Department weighed in by sharing a popular Facebook post urging parents to talk to their kids about the challenge.

“A talk from you is much better than a call from the principal or school resource officer,” said the post, which has been shared nearly 2,000 times.

Officials with the Omaha Police Department said they haven’t come across any reports from local schools of thefts or vandalism tied to the TikTok challenge. Some incidents may have been handled in-house, a police spokesman said.

Lincoln police have at least four reports of stolen soap dispensers at Lincoln schools, said Officer Erin Spilker, the department’s public information officer.

Three incidents took place at Southwest High School and the fourth happened at Mickle Middle School.

All three teens in the cases at the high school received referrals, which means they weren’t cited but will instead be contacted by juvenile court, Spilker said.

There can be consequences beyond the quick TikToks. Stealing or damaging school property, like soap dispensers or paper towel holders, is considered vandalism, Spilker said.

“Just because something’s a trend on social media doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences for those actions,” she added. “What might be fun now might have lasting consequences.”

In response to TikTok incidents at their school, several Lincoln High School students picked up brooms and trash bags and helped clean up, according to a tweet from the school’s principal.

“Even on hard days I’m amazed by our students,” Principal Mark Larson tweeted.

World-Herald Staff Writer Kelsey Stewart contributed to this report.


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Emily covers K-12 education, including Omaha Public Schools. Previously, Emily covered local government and the Nebraska Legislature for The World-Herald. Follow her on Twitter @emily_nitcher. Phone: 402-444-1192.

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