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Nebraska lawmaker apologises for false ‘furries’ comment on school bathrooms

Nebraska lawmaker apologises for false ‘furries’ comment on school bathrooms
The false claim that children who identify as cats are using litter boxes in school bathrooms has spread across the internet since at least December

A Republican state lawmaker from Nebraska has apologised for spreading a debunked theory that schools were placing litter boxes in bathrooms because students were identifying as cats.

Bruce Bostelman claimed in a televised debate over a state school funding bill that he was troubled by the self-identifying “furries”, a conspiracy theory that has been debunked by administrators.

Schoolchildren dress up as animals — cats or dogs — during the school day; they meow, and they bark,” he said on Monday.

“And now schools are wanting to put litter boxes in the schools for these children to use. How is this sanitary?”

A clip of the remarks went viral on social media, attracting more than 650,000 views by Tuesday morning.

A few hours later, Mr Bostelman acknowledged the claims weren’t true after confirming with the Legislature’s Education Committee that no such incidents had been reported

“It was just something I felt that if this really was happening, we needed to address it and address it quickly,” Mr 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.

The false claim that children who identify as cats are using litter boxes in school bathrooms has spread across the internet since at least December, when a member of the public brought it up at a school board meeting for Midland Public Schools northwest of Detroit.

The claim was debunked by the district’s superintendent, who issued a statement that said there had “never been litter boxes within MPS schools.”

Rumours of children choosing to identify as animals had spread 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 emphatically not true”.

Still, the debunked “furries” rumour has spread across the country, and become fuel for political candidates, amid the culture wars and legislative action involving gender identification in schools.

Associated Press contributed to this report