Neb. Lawmaker Apologizes for Believing 'Ugly Rumor'

State Sen. Bruce Bostelman believed claim schools were putting out litter boxes for 'furry' students
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2022 7:22 AM CDT
Neb. Pol Sorry for Accusing Schools of Using Litter Boxes
Nebraska state Sen. Bruce Bostelman, of Brainard, is seen in Lincoln, Neb., on March 1, 2019. Bostelman has apologized after he publicly cited a persistent but debunked rumor alleging that schools are placing litter boxes in school bathrooms to accommodate children who self-identify as cats.   (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

(Newser) – School custodians probably wouldn't want to add "empty litter boxes" to their daily to-do list, and luckily they don't have to—because students using litter boxes in school is not an actual thing. One Nebraska lawmaker is finally acknowledging that, and offering a public apology, after spreading a debunked rumor involving how students self-identify and their supposed bathroom habits while they're in school. Per News Channel Nebraska, the strange incident involving Bruce Bostelman started Monday, when the Republican state senator spoke on the floor of the Nebraska Legislature to rail about school officials who were reportedly accommodating students who are "furries"—individuals who enjoy dressing up as animals, often with an underlying sexual component—allowing them to identify "as cats and dogs," communicate using animal noises, and heed Mother Nature's call in litter boxes.

Bostelman, a Republican, said he'd been told by one parent that when one student who identified as a cat asked for a litter box and had their request rebuffed, that student took care of business right on the goings-on. "How can schools allow this to happen?" The senator then went on to say he planned to take the matter up with the head of the state's Department of Health and Human Services, reports the AP. It turns out, however, schools in Nebraska—and across the entire Midwest, where the false claim has been circulating, per school officials—are not allowing this to happen, because it's not true. "Ridiculous," the superintendent of Seward Public Schools tells the Nebraska Examiner.

"It's an ugly rumor," sighed the superintendent of the Adams Central District, which had to put out a statement about the hubbub last month. It's not clear where the conspiracy theory, which has been inflaming conservative pushback around gender identity, originated from, but the AP notes it's been going around since at least December, when a parent spoke up about it at a school board meeting in a district north of Detroit. It's also been repeatedly addressed in a Facebook group called Protect Nebraska Children. After the video of Bostelman's speech went viral and he learned the rumor wasn't true, Bostelman apologized for buying into it and for bringing it up at the legislative gathering. "I felt that if this really was happening, we needed to address it and address it quickly ... to make sure it wasn't happening here," he said Monday night, per News Channel Nebraska. (Read more strange stuff stories.)

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