Altamont Community Surprised, Hurt by Vandalism Likely Tied to Devious Licks

Margaret Schedler

Margaret Schedler

Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Altamont Community Surprised, Hurt by Vandalism Likely Tied to Devious Licks

In the kitchen behind the Altamont Diner. Photo by Margaret Schedler.

A new TikTok challenge called “devious licks” is spreading across the nation, and according to numerous students, it's happening at Altamont. The cost of apparently related damage here is well into the thousands of dollars.

This new TikTok trend encourages students to post videos showing them stealing, damaging, or showing off items taken from school. Some of the TikTok videos show people taking desks, signs, and, from one Southern California school, fire alarms -- one of many potentially serious safety threats. Bathroom mirrors have been shattered and a growing list of other types of school property have been vandalized in these short videos.

Several Altamont teachers privately expressed shock and disappointment that this phenomenon has made its way here, assuming that type of behavior would be beneath an institution like Altamont.

During a recent class, teacher, dean, and alumnus Buck Crowe expressed frustration. When asked for a statement for The Acta Diurna, he said, simply, “I'm disappointed in the attitudes and motivations of anyone who revels in the destruction of Altamont.” 

Interim Head of School Tom Bendel sent an email to students and parents on Monday addressing the situation and referring to "a number of acts of vandalism [that] have taken place in the building.”

Bendel said recent incidents, some of which which aren't being disclosed because investigations are ongoing, have been numerous and costly. “The most damaged thing, however, is our sense of safety, trust, and community,” he added.

One incident led to part of Altamont’s kitchen and lower-school hallway being flooded. Food Service Director Jennifer Grissom had to come in at 7:30 Friday night to stop the flooding. If Teacher Lisa Daniels hadn’t noticed it, said Grissom, sounding depleted, “We would have had to pull tiles up ... I’m still frustrated, I guess. I have no [proof] this was a student, but I don’t see how else this could happen.” She continued, “If it was done intentionally, it makes me sad. I don’t see the point to it.”

If more damage had been done, the kitchen could have been shut down, meaning no hot lunches for students. As it was, she said, some of the kitchen and maintenance staff spent their weekend cleaning and restoring that part of the building.

Altamont students are very much aware of the situation. Junior Arden Campbell told The Acta Diurna that the devious lick trend here is, "stupid and annoying.” She added, “I don’t understand why people think it's funny.”

Other students, though, do think it's funny. Classmate Mia Dunlap laughed when asked about the trend, adding, “its hilarious and terrible.”

Another, who spoke on condition of anonymity, agreed the trend is funny but acknowledged, “It's destructive.”

Another student, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, admitted to taking part in the TikTok challenge at Altamont: “[We] steal room signs.” 

According to Bendel, “We are investigating the incidents and will assign consequences when we identify the students involved.” No potential punishments have been specified yet. Bendel says school leaders "cannot give more information until the parents are notified."

Altamont’s Honor Code says “Do not lie, cheat, or steal." According to the school website, "commitment to these principles makes Altamont a place where students feel safe and free to leave their backpacks, laptops, cell phones, even wallets, unattended, knowing that no one will take them.” Students sign a contract to abide by these principles and can face an Honor Court hearing or worse for violating them.

While these acts of vandalism and theft on Altamont property break the Honor Code, they also break the law. Around the country, students have been arrested for participating in this trend.

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