This might be the dark origin of the claim that schools are letting kids use litter boxes

An urban legend is spreading across right-wing social media like wildfire, and even being picked up by some Republican lawmakers: the idea that schools around the country are providing boxes of cat litter for children who are "furries," which, according to the claim, means they identify as cats.

Among the Republican politicians who have spread the claim are Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO); Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen; Michigan Republican Party co-chair Meshawn Maddock; and Nebraska state Sen. Bruce Bostelman. Former Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and podcaster Joe Rogan have also promoted the claim.

In fact, all of this is a hoax. There is no documented case of a school allowing children to identify as other animals, and while there is a "furry" community that is completely unrelated to schools, most of them don't literally identify as animals in the same sense as gender identity.

But on Friday, NBC News reported that there is a kernel of truth to the idea of litter boxes being used in schools, but it has nothing to do with identity or sexuality at all.

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"NBC News found one example of a school district keeping cat litter on campus," said reporter Ben Collins on Twitter. "The Jefferson County School District has had classrooms with cat litter since 2017, in case students are locked in a classroom during a shooting. Jefferson County is where Columbine is located. Cat litter was handed out in Columbine's school district for active shooter situations five years ago."

"Since then, the 'litter boxes in schools' rumor has evolved into a way to mock LGBTQ youth," Collins wrote. "It's now being used as a culture war ammo by over 20 GOP politicians nationwide."

Of all the schools rumored on social media to be providing cat litter to students, Collins wrote, the only actual case of it was that school district using it for mass shooting "go buckets." But, he noted, "The data shows how the 'litter boxes in schools' rumor that cannot die, mostly due to the incredulity of adults" — fueled in part by kids on TikTok who are now making fake videos involving litter boxes to make fun of gullible parents who believe it.

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