Eleven students came in Saturday morning to help put Lange Middle School's bathrooms back in order after a week of vandalism spurred by a recent TikTok trend.

The small but dedicated custodial staff at Lange was stretched thin dealing with the mess, and seven football players, four cheerleaders and their coaches wanted to help.  

"I try to keep all the bathrooms clean during the week, but I can't," said Robert Lee Curnutte Jr., a custodian at Lange.

*Curnutte Jr. said he is on a streak of 42 straight days of coming into the school, including weekends.

Curnutte has been cleaning up messes left by students over the past two weeks after a social media trend went viral. The trend encourages students to "hit a devious lick," or steal from and vandalize their school. 

In some cases, pranks have escalated into vandalism. At Lange, actions ranged from clogging toilets to stealing soap dispensers and smearing Kool-Aid on bathroom surfaces.

Terrance Germany, Lange's head custodian, was injured after slipping on bathroom floors students had smeared with soap.

**"These kids wipe feces on the wall," Germany said via text message Sunday. "We are tired of it. (Curnutte) and I don't get the help or resources we need, things need to change immediately."

District spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said via email Friday the trend has negatively affected the district's resources in the middle of a custodian labor shortage, the Missourian reported. 

**With an already small five-person staff now down to four with Germany's injury, some Lange students have stepped up.

"Football players and cheerleaders approached me, and they wanted to help," said Stephanie Tranmer, head cheerleading coach at Lange. Tranmer, football coach Ken Storla, football players and cheerleaders helped out Saturday morning from 9 to 11.

Tranmer said vandalism wasn't a problem before; it has emerged recently after the TikTok trend. 

"I wish they'd start a trend for kids to get enough sleep and do their homework," Tranmer said. 

Lange, like all of the schools in the district, is trying to prevent the vandalism and punish those who are responsible.

"Vandalism, property damage and theft all come with both school and possibly legal consequences for those involved," Baumstark said Friday.

At a recent football game, all but one bathroom was closed in an attempt to limit incidents, said Christy Lowe, parent of a Lange student who was part of the football team cleanup.

Lowe said she thinks the vast majority of kids are behaving but worries about the repercussions of the trend.

"There are a lot of kids who care," Lowe said. "We are already dealing with COVID, and now kids don't even have soap dispensers to wash their hands."

Tranmer hopes that students treat custodians with more respect, regardless of social media trends.

"I just want students to know that they're taking important time away from these custodians who just want to keep their school clean."

*Custodian Robert Lee Curnutte Jr. was on a streak of 42 straight days of coming into Lange Middle School, including weekends. An earlier version of this article mischaracterized his current work streak.

  • Columbia Youth beat reporter. Junior studying writing and reporting. I can be reached at Mattmcfarland@mail.missouri.edu or reach the newsroom at 882-5720.

  • Assistant city editor, grad student studying investigative reporting and photojournalism. You can reach me at cjmx5d@umsystem.edu or in the newsroom at 882-5720.

  • Elizabeth Brixey is the Columbia Missourian's education editor and an associate professor in the Missouri School of Journalism. She can be reached at (573) 882-2632 and brixeye@missouri.edu.

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