Reason Roundup

No, Schools Aren't Accommodating Students Who Identify as Animals

Plus: Biden wants to ramp up military and law enforcement spending, study challenges conventional wisdom about social media misinformation, and more...


"Litter boxes in schools" rumor strikes again. When something lines up so spectacularly with your biases, good reporters know to meticulously verify it before broadcasting it as fact.

Republican politicians should probably heed that same rule of thumb when it comes to tales of kids identifying as furries.

The narrative goes like this: Schools are now so accommodating of transgender students and different gender identities that they're also recognizing as legitimate when students identify as animals. They're forcing teachers to address them by animal-related pronouns. They're even making absurd special arrangements—litter boxes in bathrooms, low-to-the-floor tables—to accommodate these pet-identifying pupils.

Nebraska state Sen. Bruce Bostelman (R–District 23) is the latest lawmaker to repeat this urban legend. "Schoolchildren dress up as animals—cats or dogs—during the school day; they meow, and they bark….And now schools are wanting to put litter boxes in the schools for these children to use. How is this sanitary?" he said Monday during a televised debate, before backtracking hours later amid school district denials.

"It was just something I felt that if this really was happening, we needed to address it and address it quickly," he said.

So far this year, similar myths have made the rounds in Iowa, Michigan, and Texas, prompting the same denials from school administrators.

"The rumor is that our schools have litter boxes in the restrooms to accommodate individuals who are self-identifying as animals," Casey Burlau, superintendent of Iowa's Carroll School District, wrote in a February letter to parents. "This is simply and emphatically not true."

In Michigan, Meshawn Maddock, chairwoman of the state's Republican party, posted on Facebook in January that "kids who identify as 'furries' get a litter box in the school bathroom." (This is not true.)

Michelle Evans, a Republican running for Texas' state House of Representatives, claimed in January that cafeteria tables were being lowered in middle and high schools "to allow 'furries' to more easily eat without utensils or their hands (ie, like a dog eats from a bowl)."

It was not true. ("It is not even a possible option with our cafeteria tables," a school spokesperson told McClatchy News.)

Why do these stories keep cropping up? Probably because they line up perfectly with conservative fears about transgender and non-binary students and the propaganda war some Republicans have waged against accommodating these students.

It's reminiscent of how lawmakers for years insisted that same-sex marriage legalization would lead to people marrying animals.

But the ridiculous rumors weren't true then, and they aren't true now.

Somewhere, there are probably are students who identify as animals. Maybe fairies and witches, too. Who know? It's a big country. Teenagers are often odd, confused, and searching for a way to stand out.

But the idea that this is either widespread or some offshoot of gender anarchy lacks any evidence.

And the idea that school districts would actually install litter boxes or other animal accoutrements for these students is just nuts. It's mind-boggling that anyone would believe it. But it lines up so perfectly with certain sorts of "youth today!" freakouts and anti-trans fears that I expect we're going to keep seeing such rumors for a while.


Biden's bloated budget plans would raise taxes while increasing funding for the military, police departments, the FBI, and ICE. President Joe Biden has released his proposed federal budget for 2023. You can find the whole thing here. Under the $5.8 trillion plan, "taxes would rise by $2.5 trillion, marking the largest increase in history in dollar terms," and "the deficit would be $1.15 trillion," notes Fox News.

The proposal also "includes significant increases in funding for the military and police departments," The New York Times points out. The $773 billion in proposed military spending would be a 10 percent increase over this year's budget. Police departments and anti-violence initiatives would get $30 billion, and the Department of Justice and the FBI would see extra funds for specific types of law enforcement.

Biden's plan would "set aside $367 million for the Justice Department to support police reform, prosecute hate crimes and protect voting rights," the Times reports. "More than $17 billion would go toward cracking down on gun trafficking and nearly $70 billion for the F.B.I. to drive down violent crime. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which Mr. Biden promised to overhaul during the campaign amid calls from progressives to abolish it, would receive more than $8 billion."

Biden would also nearly double the budget for the Space Force.


New research challenges conventional wisdom about social media and misinformation. "Contrary to popular narratives, it is not clear whether using social media for news increases belief in political misinformation," the researchers report in
The International Journal of Press/Politics.

For the study, the researches looked at news exposure on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and WhatsApp in Mexico during the 2021 midterm elections. "None of the social platforms analyzed exhibits a significant association with misinformed beliefs," they found. "We conclude that the study is consistent with the 'minimal media effects' paradigm, which suggests that efforts to address misinformation need to go beyond social platforms."


The Chamber of Commerce says court was right to toss Facebook lawsuit. In a new filing, the Chamber of Commerce has asked "a D.C. appeals court to reject an appeal by a big group of U.S. states to revive their antitrust lawsuit against Meta Platform's Facebook," Reuters reports:

The Chamber, along with the Computer and Communications Industry Association and Business Roundtable, argued that the district court judge hearing the case was right to toss it out because the states had waited too long to file their case.

Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last July dismissed the states' lawsuit against Facebook, saying they delayed in challenging the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp in 2012 and 2014 respectively.

The judge left room for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to refile its lawsuit against Facebook, however, and the FTC did so in January. (See also: Facebook's 'Monopoly' Was Always Doomed.)


• A federal court said former President Donald Trump "more likely than not" tried to obstruct Congress in certifying the 2020 election results.

• More on the massive amounts of fraud that took place under the Paycheck Protection Program, designed to help businesses and workers make it through the pandemic. Experts say theft accounted for "as much as $80 billion—or about 10 percent—of the $800 billion handed out," reports NBC News. "That's on top of the $90 billion to $400 billion believed to have been stolen from the $900 billion Covid unemployment relief program … And another $80 billion potentially pilfered from a separate Covid disaster relief program."

• After spending 28 years wrongfully imprisoned for a murder he didn't commit, William "Ricky" Virgil has now died before his lawsuit against the cops who he says framed him can proceed. "His civil trial had been set to begin last August in federal court in Covington," Kentucky, notes WCPO Cincinnati. "But U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning agreed to delay the case so the officers could appeal. They say qualified immunity shields them from liability and a jury trial."

• Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has signed a controversial bill limiting what schools can teach about gender and sexual orientation: