Why do politicians keep falling for the cat-identifying-students myth?

The cases of politicians falling for an urban myth about students identifying as cats continue to crop up in the USA.

Researchers in the USA say the tale of students identifying as cats can be traced back across the USA to various occurrences over the last 20 years. Recently claims have arisen across the USA in Ohio, Utah, Michigan, Nebraska, Arkansas and Texas. There’s also been claims of cat identifying students in Canada.

The basic story is students are identifying as cats, and some part of the school world is being adjusted for their special needs. Often the claim is that kitty litter boxes are being put in unisex bathrooms, or tables in the cafeteria are being lowered so students can eat like animals.

There’s clearly a connection between opposition to people who are transgender accessing bathrooms or changerooms, and the outlandish tales of cat-identifying students. There’s even been reports in Australia with Murdoch Press newspapers making claims, and colleagues spreading them further via Sky News.

Even though the tales have been thoroughly debunked as complete codswallop, politicians keep falling for the tall tales.

In late April Republican representatives in Minnesota added their names to the long list of gullible officials. During a debate over an education bill two more politicians shared the claims of cat-identifying students. Steve Drazkowski and colleague Tim Miller were debating a regular survey that is sent to high school students in their state when they shared the urban myth.

Earlier this month Tim Kraayenbrink, an Iowa State Senator also made the claim during a debate over an education bill.

“In my Senate district, they’re requiring these schools to put kitty litter boxes in the bathroom,” he said. “The thing is, these things are happening in Iowa on a regular basis and nobody knows about it, because the media doesn’t cover these things … It’s making it very easy to give parents and children more options if they feel that their child has not been educated correctly, or the way they want that child.” Kraayenbrink claimed.

Local media were quick to highlight that the urban myth had already been established earlier in the year, leading to the politician releasing an apology saying he had misspoken, and the constituent had actually told him that the school in question had refused to install kitty litter boxes when a request was made.

Kraayenbrink later said he was unable to provide specific details about the school concerned because he didn’t want to break confidences with constituent who told him about it. 

Despite media coverage of the urban myth, people keep believing it. Schools in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Vermont and Maine have also recently been forced to release statements denying there are students who want kitty litter boxes in their bathrooms.

OIP Staff

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