Minnesota Republicans falsely claim schools are providing litter boxes for students identifying as cats

Minnesota Republicans repeated debunked tales about schools providing litter boxes for students who identify as cats during debate over the House education budget bill Wednesday.

Reps. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, and Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, shared the fictional stories in support of Drazkowski’s proposal to give lawmakers control over a statewide student survey.

The anecdotes show, Miller said, how the Minnesota Student Survey’s questions about gender and sexuality encourage “moving to the absurd” in allowing students to explore their identities. Democrats condemned the comments as inaccurate and harmful to LGBTQ youth, who are disproportionately likely to face bullying and mental health issues.

“I get concerned that people watching this may think members are intending harm, or at least feel that harm,” said Rep. Dave Pinto, DFL-St. Paul. “I want to make sure that transgender kids, all gender kids, know that you are loved. You are normal exactly as you are, in your own skin.”

Unsubstantiated rumors about schools providing accommodations for students who believe they’re animals or identify as furries — a subculture of people who enjoy acting like and dressing up as animals — have spread across the country for months. The claims, all debunked, have been spurred on by social media posts, outraged parents and lawmakers in several states, often in connection with arguments that schools’ diversity and inclusion efforts have gone too far.

The Minnesota Student Survey has been given every three years since 1989. It’s the only source of statewide data on students’ health and safety, with questions on topics including nutrition, sexual behavior, after-school programming and substance use. Schools and the state use the data to track trends in student well-being and apply for grants.

Drazkowski took issue with questions like “What is your gender identity?,” saying he didn’t know what some of the options meant and couldn’t remember if there’s a “blue gender or a green gender.” He thanked education committee chair Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, for explaining to him the meaning of “cisgender” — which describes a person whose gender matches their sex assigned at birth — during a committee hearing.

“Apparently, members, it means you’re normal,” Drazkowski said. “It’s the way God designed you.”

Rep. Eric Lucero, R-St. Michael, also spoke in favor of Drazkowki’s proposal, arguing that the survey stands in the way of schools getting “back to basics.”

“Whether a person believes themselves to be an animal, or some other inanimate object, or ‘two-spirited’ or whatever this other junk is that’s being taught in these schools —” Lucero said, referencing “Two Spirit,” an Indigenous term that encompasses a range of genders and sexualities. Democratic Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn — a descendant of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe — interrupted with a point of order.

A number of Democrats called on Drazkowski, Miller and Lucero to apologize for disparaging LGBTQ and Indigenous people. They refused, with Drazkowski saying “truth” has to “prevail over feelings of what we think we want to be.” Miller said the criticisms were offensive to 95% of people in his district; and Lucero added, “I love all children, but there’s the reality that love sometimes has to be tough.”

“There have been some hateful, disrespectful things said on this floor today,” Becker-Finn said, addressing her comments to Two Spirit and queer Minnesotans. “We love you just the way you are. You are exactly who the creator wanted you to be. You are exactly what your ancestors dreamed of. You are not alone, and you are loved.”

Minnesota Reformer is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Minnesota Reformer maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Patrick Coolican for questions: info@minnesotareformer.com. Follow Minnesota Reformer on Facebook and Twitter.

Right-wing celeb Charlie Kirk thinks George Floyd is a ‘scumbag’

Right-wing celebrity Charlie Kirk opened his appearance in Mankato Tuesday night by giving the crowd some advice: “Just don't totally mess up this state. It was built by wonderful Scandinavians, and it seems as if it's being destroyed now, rather intentionally."

In an 80-some-minute speech, Kirk called George Floyd a “scumbag," railed against urban areas — especially Minneapolis, which is “not the town it used to be" — and seemingly referenced Jan. 6 while lamenting how “if you dare walk into the U.S. Capitol building and take a selfie, they'll put you in solitary confinement."

Attendees nearly filled the auditorium for the Minnesota leg of Kirk's national “Exposing Critical Racism Tour," with Republicans U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn and state Rep. Jeremy Munson among them. In a Facebook post Wednesday, Munson thanked Kirk for an “engaging discussion." Hagedorn said he “enjoyed attending."

Hagedorn's office did not reply to a request for comment.

Kirk, the founder of right-wing youth organization Turning Point USA, has become well-known for his efforts to rally young conservative voters and for spreading false claims about the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and voter fraud.

In Mankato, Kirk told the audience his tour is named the “CRT tour" because of “George Floyd's death, and the misinterpretation of that." Kirk repeated debunked falsehoods that Floyd died because of a fentanyl overdose, that he was “illegally counterfeiting currency," and that he once “put a gun to a pregnant woman's stomach."

On Monday, Texas Tribune reported, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended Floyd receive a posthumous full pardon for a 2004 drug charge he received in Houston. The officer who made the arrest has since been indicted for murder and other misconduct charges.

Kirk seemed to suggest that the racial reckoning following the murder of Floyd by former police officer Derek Chauvin was an overreaction by “the most corrupt and disengenuous voices that any human being could possibly find around anything."

Kirk also invoked Garrison Keillor — who “got 'MeToo-ed' in 2017 or whatever," he said. He seemed to reference Lake Wobegone, a fictional location in “Prairie Home Companion," as a real place while describing the lessons of the show as “maybe we shouldn't hyper-corporatize our entire lifestyle and all move to cities and become childless and godless."

In closing, Kirk said he wanted to be clear his remarks were “framed around this idea that we're no longer in, like, an economics debate — high taxes, no taxes, more regulation, less regulation."

“No," he continued, “This is civilization-defining stuff."

Minnesota Reformer is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Minnesota Reformer maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Patrick Coolican for questions: info@minnesotareformer.com. Follow Minnesota Reformer on Facebook and Twitter.