Nebraska lawmaker apologizes for debunked litter claim

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska state lawmaker apologized Monday after publicly citing a lingering but debunked rumor alleging that schools are placing litter boxes in school bathrooms to accommodate self-identifying children. like cats.

Senator Bruce Bostelman, a conservative Republican, repeated the false claim during a televised town hall debate on a bill to help school children with behavioral problems. His comments quickly went viral, with a Twitter video garnering over 300,000 views on Monday afternoon, and sparked a flurry of criticism and ridicule online.

Bostelman initially said he was “shocked” when he heard stories of children dressing up as cats and dogs at school, saying schools greet them with litter boxes.

“They meow and they bark and they interact with their teachers that way,” Bostelman said during the legislative debate. “And now schools want to put litter boxes in schools for these kids to use. How is it sanitary?

The rumor persisted in a private Facebook group, “Protect Nebraska Children,” and also surfaced last month in an Iowa school district, forcing the superintendent to write to parents that it was “simply and categorically untrue. “.

Bostelman had said he planned to discuss the matter with the CEO of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. He also alleged that schools did not allow children to carry flags, but did not give specific examples. In 2016, the Lincoln Public School District briefly asked students not to display American flags from their vehicles after a flag was removed from its stand, but school officials later apologized.

The false claim that children who identify as cats use litter boxes in school bathrooms has been circulating the internet since at least December, when a member of the public brought it up at a meeting. from the Midland Public Schools Board of Northwest Detroit.

The claim was denied by the district superintendent, who issued a statement that there had “never been any litter boxes in MPS schools”.

Yet the baseless rumor has spread across the country and become fuel for political candidates, amid culture wars and legislation involving gender identification in schools.

Hours after his remarks, Bostelman backtracked and admitted the story was not true. He said he verified the claims with State Senator Lynne Walz, a Democrat who heads the Legislative Education Committee, and confirmed there were no such incidents.

“It was just something that I felt if it really happened, we needed to address it and fix it quickly,” Bostelman said.

The furor over public school restrooms comes as a growing number of conservative states seek laws to ban transgender students from using bathrooms that match their gender identity.

Associated Press reporter Ali Swenson in New York contributed to this report.

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