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Expert says your kids' Halloween pranks could cost you as Coquitlam school district warns of social media-inspired vandalism

Authorities aim to crack down on Halloween vandalism at schools; here's what parents can do to convince their kids to steer away from social media pranks that could get them in trouble with police

School District 43 is warning parents it will crack down on Halloween vandalism to schools and bring in the cops if necessary.

The warning comes as school districts across Canada try to put a quick stop to a social media trend that started in the U.S. called “Devious Licks.”

The monthly challenge that started on TikTok and Instagram has students posting images and videos of damage, mostly to school washrooms, including removing toilet paper, and pins from door hinges.

But in some cases the vandalism was more serious —and costly, such as property damage to sinks and toilets.

Reports of the trend have occurred in New Brunswick, and a Montreal school board warned parents about Devious Licks as recently as last week.

The concern is this vandalism might spike during Halloween, and the Coquitlam school district wants parents to be aware of the potential threat — and cost to their children and family, if damage or disruption is severe.


In a letter to parents, School District 43 (Coquitlam) superintendent Patricia Gartland noted a “few recent trends” on social media platforms have “encouraged disruption to school communities in the form of vandalism and/or disrespectful, potentially dangerous behaviour.”

She warned that if similar actions take place in SD43, administrators would follow up using authority granted by the BC School Act, and “with the involvement of police where appropriate.”

Social media expert Jesse Miller said the school district’s warning is not an idle threat.

Parents can be held liable for the damage caused by their children.

Citing the case of the North Vancouver School District that sued parents of four teens for $70,000 for setting the Dorothy Lynas Elementary school roof on fire, Jesse Miller suggested parents have a conversation with their kids about the potential costs of wrecking school property.

Miller, who is a social media educator and commentator, said parents should encourage their children to have fun on Halloween, but remind them not to “do something stupid.”

“They (children) should understand where things are (with the law).”


Inviting teens to be smart and protect family interests may be one way to reach youngsters when peer pressure is so strong they consider doing a costly prank at school to gain “social media clout.”

Vandalism of school property is not a new phenomenon and parents should resist the urge to lecture, Miller said, given that they probably did pranks when they were teens — just without the social media “evidence.”

In the North Vancouver lawsuit, the school district claimed parents of the teens “had a duty to supervise and control the actions of their children and were negligent in that they failed to adequately do so and prevent the damage to the school caused by their children.”

While parents should be vigilant, they needn’t panic, however.

Miller said most of the time social media chatter about Devious Licks or other pranks is mostly “chatter” and few pranks are ever carried out. 

Meanwhile, TikTok removed videos that showed students bragging about stealing items.

Still, it’s important to explain the consequences of activities to youngsters, many of whom don’t realize they are breaking the law when they maliciously steal or break things at school.

Typically, those motivated to do these kind of ‘pranks’ are teens who don’t think the law applies to them, Miller said. 

A bigger concern, Miller said, are recent “swatting” events where someone is calling in bomb threats to schools to create a big scene and problems for authorities.

In Port Moody, where police are investigating bomb threats to Seaview Community Elementary School and Port Moody Secondary School, identifying individuals involved will be a big task because perpetrators find ways to cloak their activities using burner phones and VoIP (Voice Over Ineternet Protocol) applications that can hide cellphone numbers.

Miller said students who do Devious Licks are different from those who call in bogus bomb threats.

Kids participate in social media pranks to get attention, Miller said, while ‘swatters’ want to cause “chaos.”

— with files from Jane Seyd, North Shore News


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