Rumor targeting students identifying as cats prompts response from another Canadian school

A “sandbox” hoax has prompted a Quebec school board to issue a statement and warning that spreading false information could lead to legal action.

This ad has not loaded yet, but its article continues below.

The Lac-Abitibi school board, located in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region of Quebec, clarified in a statement last week that there are no sandboxes on school property, students are not on leashes, and students only wear costumes. to go to school during specific activities.

“Any dissemination that goes against this information could represent defamation and therefore be subject to legal recourse.” added the school board.

The statement was issued in response to rumors circulating in the region about the use of sandboxes at Polyno High School in La Sarre, Que. to accommodate students identifying as cats, a hoax that is becoming increasingly popular.

Publisher Recommended

This ad has not loaded yet, but its article continues below.

Isabelle Godbout, who runs the Lac-Abitibi school service center, called the situation “absurd” in an interview with Radio-Canada.

“In Abitibi, we have been hearing more and more about this rumour, which has been happening in our schools… to the point where it has become a very persistent urban legend.” Godbout said.

The rumor allegedly began circulating after it was brought up during a game of true or false on a local radio station. Another private radio station in Gatineau also started a similar rumor about a regional high school in April, the CBC reports.

In an interview with Radio-Canada, Mona Greenbaum, executive director of the LGBT+ Family Coalition, said she believes adults start rumors as a way to “disparage trans youth and make the whole thing seem like an absolutely crazy idea. ”

This ad has not loaded yet, but its article continues below.

“It is very similar to what we saw when we were fighting for marriage. So people were saying, ‘Well, if we allow two men of the same gender or two women to marry, what’s next? Are we going to start marrying our horse, our dog and our cat?’” Greenbaum added.

The rumor appears to have first surfaced in Canada in October 2021, when Norbert Carpenter, director of the PEI public school branch, issued a statement noting that sandboxes were not being placed in PEI schools to students who identify as cats.

Carpenter said he made the statement after months of emails and phone calls on the subject.

“I think a lot of people thought this was a joke, and it’s not a joke,” Carpenter told CBC.

“I thought it was a backlash against some of the progressive things our schools are doing, and many would say this is rooted in hate, transphobia and homophobia and that message needs to be clear, it’s not acceptable. .”

This ad has not loaded yet, but its article continues below.

In December 2021, a sandbox rumor began to circulate in Michigan after a mother told a school board meeting that she was surprised to hear that schools had sandboxes in unisex bathrooms for students who identified. like cats, according to a New York Times report.

The unsubstantiated rumor was later seized upon by politicians and commentators, further spreading the hoax.

An NBC report from October last year found that at least 20 conservative candidates and elected officials had claimed that schools were placing sandboxes on campus to accommodate students.

“All of the school districts that have been named by those 20 politicians told NBC News or in public statements that these claims are not true. There is no evidence that any school has set up litter boxes for students to use because they identify as cats.” the report noted.

That same month, two school boards in Renfrew County, Ontario also issued statements clarifying that no sandboxes had been placed in schools.

This ad has not loaded yet, but its article continues below.

The letter, issued by the Renfrew County District School Board and the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board, noted that the boards do not collect animal identity information from children or acknowledge animal identities.

Earlier in the month, the Durham District School Board also moved to dispel rumors of litter boxes in school bathrooms and outdoor potty breaks.

“As a district, we are concerned that these types of rumors about accommodating furry-identifying students may be rooted in transphobia and homophobia with the intent to diminish and trivialize gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. and causing harm to students and staff who identify as 2SLGBTQI,” the statement noted. “This is unacceptable and we continue to take action to support and defend the rights of 2SLGBTQI communities.”

This ad has not loaded yet, but its article continues below.

Wildly popular podcaster Joe Rogan also fueled the rumors in October 2021. While interviewing Tulsi Gabbard, the former United States Representative, Rogan opened up about a story about a litter box being placed in the girls’ bathroom at a school. unidentified to accommodate a student who identifies as a “fur.”

Gabbard did not question the authenticity of Rogan’s story, instead saying it was “absolutely insane”.

Rogan said he heard the story from a friend whose wife works at the unidentified school. Rogan later said that he tried to verify the story but that the woman no longer worked for the school.

“I don’t think they really have.” Rogan then clarified. “I think there were discussions about doing it because there was a particularly crazy mom, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that they put a litter box in there.”