Claims of litter boxes in school restrooms are false

Rumors of schools putting litter boxes in bathrooms for students who identify as cats have spread across the United States this year and have now reached Salem.

It all started when a video of a central michigan school board meeting went viral in mid-January after a parent claimed a “nefarious” scheme had taken over public schools in his county.

In the December 21, 2021, YouTube videowhich now has over 91,000 views, a woman told the Midland Public Schools Board meeting that she was told there was a litter box in the bathroom of at least one school local for students who identify as cat “furs” – people who adopt and identify with an anthropomorphized animal character, often within online or local fur communities.

Meshawn Maddock, Michigan Republican Party Co-Chairshared the unsubstantiated comment on Facebook.

Midland Superintendent Michael Sharrow denied the claim in an email sent to parents, staff and community members on January 20.

“Let me be clear…there is no truth to this misrepresentation/accusation! There have never been litter boxes in MPS schools,” he wrote. “It is such a source of disappointment that I felt the need to convey this message to you.”

Across the country, from New York to Iowa and Texas, the same rumor swept through the districts this spring. The New York Times, USA TODAYPolitifact, Reuters and Snopes, among other publications, wrote articles confirming the claims were unfounded.

Still, it seems the rumor has reached Oregon, with recent rumors claiming Salem-Keizer Public Schools officials approved a student’s request to identify themselves as a cat and allowed litter boxes. in the Sprague High School bathroom.

District officials confirmed to the Statesman Journal that the claims are categorically false.

“Sprague High School, or any school in Salem-Keizer, does not have litter boxes to use as restrooms,” district spokeswoman Emily Hicks said. “It’s a rumor that’s been circulating nationally, and more recently in our community, and it’s just that, a rumor, and it’s by no means accurate.

“Restrooms are available at all District facilities in accordance with state law,” she added.

LGBTQ Opposition Behind Litter Box Claims

The spread of false rumors that college students identify as cats and use litter boxes has been ridiculed by many, but is a concern for others.

Some who believed the false rumors continue to cite them as an example of school districts going too far with so-called identity politics, linking the litter’s claims of schools allowing transgender students to use the restrooms of their choice.

Salem Keizer in February introduces several new policies with the goal of increasing the “safety, well-being, education and success” of transgender or non-binary students. Transgender is when someone identifies with a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth. Non-binary is when someone does not identify as either male or female.

Back to school:An Oregon trans student’s advice to LGBTQ youth

Among the policies is one that states that students, staff, and visitors can use restrooms that match their gender identity. It also orders schools to ensure gender-neutral, single-occupant bathrooms are accessible to all.

Not everyone supported the policy changes, with one group protest against them in front of district offices in April.

In addition, this summer, a group of parents and community members unsuccessfully pushed for the removal of “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” a graphic novel by Maia Kobabe that discusses topics such as asexuality and being non-binary, from Salem-Keizer high school libraries.

Opponents said they believe the main purpose of the book is “to promote various agendas” related to the LGBTQ community in an effort to “make it more acceptable in the mainstream.”

“It implies to the student that this type of behavior is completely acceptable and normal,” they wrote in the complaint to Salem-Keizer. “It could lead to a lifetime of pornography addiction and deviant behavior. It could harm the student’s future self-image and destroy their ambitions.”

Proponents want to stop the slippery slope argument

Similar “if we allow this, what’s next?” arguments have been used throughout history, such as comparing interracial and same-sex relationships to bestiality and pedophilia.

Local defenders want to shut down this line of thinking.

“It’s sad that we’re at a point in our culture that a rumor like this even needs to be dealt with,” said Blair Stenvick, communications manager for the Portland-based nonprofit. Basic Rights Oregon. “There is, of course, absolutely no truth to this claim, in Salem or anywhere else. But it is important to recognize that the claim comes from a place of deep campaign of fear regarding the creation of LGBTQ2SIA+ inclusive spaces. in our schools.”

LGBTQ2SIA+ is the acronym used by Basic Rights Oregon and other advocacy groups to describe those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, two-spirited, intersex, asexual and/or other genders and variable sexualities. “Two-Spirit” is a term used by some Native Americans to describe members of the community who identify with a third gender or other gender variants.

Counter-protesters dance and wave pride flags in front of those protesting new Salem-Keizer Public Schools policies outlining the rights of transgender students on April 11, 2022.

“The Oregon Department of Education has had inclusive policies in place for years, and no harm has been done to cisgender or transgender students as a result of those policies,” Stenvick said. Cisgender refers to individuals who identify with the gender assigned to them at birth.

“This baseless rumor is an attempt to stir up controversy in an area where there shouldn’t be any – all students deserve to feel safe and respected at school.

“Unfortunately, the spread of hateful misinformation targeting queer and trans people is nothing new, and these tactics make our schools and communities less safe,” they said. “Let’s instead focus on the real issues affecting Oregon’s youth.”

USA Today reports contributed to this story.

Natalie Pate covers education for the Statesman Journal. Send him comments, questions and advice at [email protected] or 503-399-6745. Follow her on Twitter @NataliePateGwin.

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