School bathroom “kitty litter box” hoax hits ABSS

QUESTION: Are Alamance-Burlington schools actually providing litter boxes in school bathrooms, or any other accommodations, for students who identify as cats? I was told a kid at Southern Middle got in trouble with the principal for barking at a child who identified as a cat.

ANSWER: The internet hoax is very real, but the claims that Alamance-Burlington schools are providing litter boxes for students is flat-out false, ABSS public information officer Les Atkins told The Alamance News Wednesday.

“[These rumors] have been circulating throughout the state,” Atkins said in an interview Wednesday. “It’s a Facebook thing that never really happened [anywhere].”

Atkins said similar rumors had circulated throughout his previous school system in Roanoke Rapids, adding that he’s not surprised that the hoax has arrived in ABSS schools. “We were doing construction at one of the schools in Roanoke Rapids, and the claim was that we were retrofitting the bathrooms for litter boxes.

“Our kids eat from trays in the cafeteria and they use the bathroom [like normal],” Atkins said, referring to ABSS schools and students. “They eat cafeteria food, or what they bring from home.

“Children acting like cats, using litter boxes – every school district has had this rumor,” the school system’s PIO emphasized. “Now it’s in Alamance County.”

The Charlotte Observer reported in October 2022 that the same rumor – that students, calling themselves “furries,” were dressing up as cats and bringing litter boxes to school – had circulated through the Iredell-Statesville school system.

Atkins said one of his counterparts in the Rockingham County school system recently told him that the same “litter box” rumor had spread throughout that school system.

“Furries are a group of people – it’s a whole culture,” Atkins said, describing them as people who dress up like animals, particularly cats, and mimic animal characteristics.

But ABSS is providing no accommodations for any children who may insist that they’re cats, Atkins repeatedly stressed in the interview.

The school board’s chairman also said she believes that the “litter box” tale has no factual basis.

“I cannot imagine that we have litter boxes in the restroom,” school board chairman Sandy Ellington-Graves said in an interview Wednesday morning. “I was asked [this] about Southern Middle last year. When I’ve asked the administration, the answer has consistently been no.”

The school board’s chairman also told the newspaper that she has not seen any litter boxes, or other accommodations for students who may identify as animals or domestic pets, at any of the ABSS schools she has visited during her tenure on the school board.

Multiple state and national media outlets have reported on similar claims of litter boxes being provided in public schools.

Education Week reported in November 2022 that what it termed the “litter box hoax” had frustrated school officials throughout the country.

The hoax has even made its way into elite circles: NBC News reported in October 2022 that Republican congresswoman Lauren Boebert of Colorado had “warned that educators ‘are putting litter boxes in schools for people who identify as cats.’” None of these “litter box” claims appears to have been substantiated.

Meanwhile, Atkins provided a subsequent statement for the school system later Wednesday.

“ABSS wants to address false rumors that have been circulating in the community and on social media claiming that our schools are putting in litter boxes for students who behave like cats or other animals and allowing students to respond to teachers by meowing, among other things,” Atkins said. “These types of rumors have been circulating nationally for over a year and to our knowledge, have all been unfounded, including here in ABSS.  At no time have we had any requests to provide modifications to our bathrooms for such things.

“ABSS values diversity, creativity, and imagination and has high expectations for our students and we know our families want the best for them, as we do,” Atkins added. “We are disappointed that these rumors were ever allowed to proliferate in our community and more importantly perpetuated on social media.”

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