A senator repeated a long-disproven hoax about children who identify as cats using litter boxes and shitting on the floor in schools on Monday, in the latest absurdity to come out of the culture wars happening within schools across the country.
During a debate about a bill to help students who have behavioral problems, Nebraska State Senator Bruce Bostelman went on a rant about furries in schools.
“I’m a little shocked, I guess... It’s something called furries,” he said. “If you don’t know what furries are, it’s where schoolchildren dress up as animals—cats or dogs—during the school day; they meow, and they bark, and they interact with the school and teachers in this fashion. And now schools are wanting to put litter boxes in the schools for these children to use. How is this sanitary? ...How can schools allow this to happen?”
He also relayed a false rumor he heard about a student who requested a litterbox, and when the school didn’t provide one, the student “defecated on the floor.”
Someone must have told Bostelman after his speech that he’d fallen for a long-debunked hoax, because within hours, he issued a statement retracting his rant. According to the Associated Press, he said he checked with state Senator Lynne Walz, a Democrat who leads the Legislature’s Education Committee, who confirmed that none of this ever happened.
“It was just something I felt that if this really was happening, we needed to address it and address it quickly,” Bostelman said, according to the AP.
This hoax started in December 2021, when a parent at a Midland County, Michigan school board meeting, Lisa Hansen, said she’d heard that the school placed litter boxes in the bathrooms for students who identified as cats.
It started circulating in Facebook groups, like “Protect Nebraska Children,” and has picked up momentum with parents. Hansen claimed it was part of a “nefarious” agenda being pushed in schools, but didn’t have evidence to back up the claim. “I was stunned,” Hansen said in the meeting. “And today I am equally stunned and a little bit upset—well, not a little bit, a lot of bit upset, furious, I would even use that word.”
The rumors have gotten so bad, school superintendents have had to address them with parents.
Michael Sharrow, superintendent of Midland Public Schools in Michigan, wrote a Facebook post to debunk the rumor: "It is such a source of disappointment that I felt the necessity to communicate this message to you," Sharrow wrote, according to USA Today. "In this divisive/contentious world in which we currently find ourselves, I ask that if you hear wild accusations that don’t sound like something in which your Midland Public Schools Board of Education, Administration, District would be part. Let me be clear in this communication. There is no truth whatsoever to this false statement/accusation! There have never been litter boxes within MPS schools."
And in early February, an Iowa school district superintendent received so many questions about furries, he emailed a letter to parents debunking the claim. “The rumor is that our schools have litter boxes in the restrooms to accommodate individuals who are self-identifying as animals,” Carroll School District Superintendent Casey Burlau wrote in the letter. “This is simply and emphatically not true.”
In Nebraska, Josh Fields, the superintendent of the Seward Public Schools, said the rumors were “ridiculous.”
This is all part of the ongoing culture wars happening in schools across the country—anti-Critical Race Theory parents berating school boards about classic literature, anti-maskers disrupting meetings and abusing staff, libraries pulling any references to sex and gender that’s outside of the heterosexual norm, the passage of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill that forbids talk of gender and sexuality in schools, the battle to keep trans students from safely using bathrooms or playing sports.
Furries have always been stereotyped as an example of perverse internet culture, so it’s no surprise that the fandom’s being used as a boogeyman for conservative parents trying to stir up a new panic by asking absurd questions in school board meetings.