Litter Boxes in Schools

What is this urban myth and where did it come from?
Litter Boxes in Schools

I’m sure at least once in your life everyone has heard someone start a story by saying “I heard from a friend of a friend…” or something similar.

Typically, whatever they are about to say has gone through many different versions of itself to end up where it is. These are called urban myths (urban legends, modern legends, contemporary legends, etc). They are stories about odd or amusing events that people may believe are true when in reality they are false. These myths are often spread by word of mouth, or most recently, email. The internet spreads these rumors like wildfires.

Urban myths can often provide insight into the current fears of society. Lack of information and fears fuel urban myths. People fill in the gaps of stories with whatever they can make up.

The concept of fact-checking emerged in an attempt to eliminate the spread of these urban myths. Fact-checking is a modern aspect of journalism that aims to prove to the public what is accurate and unbiased information and what is not. This is to prevent misinformation and increase knowledge of important facts. Fact-checking in the U.S. mainly focuses on political statements, internet rumors, and urban myths, as stated by Ballotpedia

Politicians generally ignore fact-checkers when their statements are rated false, or they attack the fact-checker. Others use fact-checkers to attack their opponents or to adjust their own statements to avoid being fact-checked.

So what is this urban myth that school districts are providing litter boxes for students?

Politician Meshawn Maddock re-shares rumor on FaceBook

Believe it or not, it all started with a rumor. A community member from Midland Public School in Michigan shared their concerns over the rumor at a school board meeting. It is unclear where the rumor originated from. Midland Public School’s superintendent “debunked” the myth, but politician Meshawn Maddock shared the rumor on Facebook.

To watch the Midland Public Schools December 2021 Board of Education Meeting click here. Fast forward to 32:53 to hear the superintendent’s response.

Throughout 2022, the rumor kept resurfacing through multiple politicians who claimed schools provided litter boxes in the bathrooms for students identifying as cats, according to Some of the politicians retracted their claims after finding out they were untrue.

Republican politicians have claimed that twenty different schools are harboring litter boxes for student use. All twenty districts have proven the rumor false.

NBC reported that Joe Rogan claims through his podcast A Joe Rogan Experience that a litter box was installed in a school where his friend’s wife worked (hmm, sounds familiar doesn’t it?) for a student identifying as an animal. Later he backtracks, saying there doesn’t seem to be any proof.

These litter box rumors are spread like any other urban myth, through word-of-mouth “friend of a friend” statements. In recent years, school rumors like these are fairly common. For example, the rumors in 2016 about clowns terrorizing students, and further accusations claiming schools are propagandizing students through critical race theory (a legal theory on racism being embedded in our law and documents that is taught at some law schools but is not part of public school curriculum).

You’re probably wondering what the basis is for the litter box rumors. Why would anyone request a litter box because they identify as an animal?

The rumor likely reflects parental fears about what their children are being taught in schools. Then these fears are twisted and shared on the internet. North Eastern Global News says that the root of these fears comes from the subculture of furries, which are people who dress up as anthropomorphic animal characters and attend conventions. Anthropomorphism is defined as having human qualities.

While furries may attend conventions and connect with others, they return to their normal lives afterward like anyone else. The rumors over requests for litter boxes simply reflect a moral panic.

“…the hoax still has a lasting impact during a time when schools need to be laser focused on solving staffing challenges and helping students regain their academic footing. It was also unfairly and inaccurately used to ostracize LGBTQ students, who are not necessarily part of the furries subculture, in which people dress up as animals.” says

The rumor has reached the Mentor Public Schools district as well. Teachers, students, and community members have heard the accusations from various sources. One staff member, Mrs. Jennifer Butterfield shares how she heard the rumor.

Someone told my hairdresser there were litter boxes in our restrooms so she asked me if it was true,” Mrs. Butterfield says. “I feel like I was asked by another person as well, but I don’t remember. A neighbor of [Mr.] Pierce’s asked him one time. (Perry does this I’ve been told; my student teacher and I talked about it at one point as he did fieldwork there).”

Currently, there is no evidence that any school, including Perry and Mentor, has litter boxes in their bathrooms.

Superintendent Mr. Craig Heath debunks the litter box rumors at the August 2023 board meeting

The accusations were so frequently brought up that superintendent Mr. Craig Heath had to address them at the August 2023 school board meeting (Fast forward to 1:12:55).

“I can assure you that we have never, nor will we ever as long as I’m the superintendent, have litter boxes in our restrooms.” He goes on to explain an experience he had at the doctor’s office where the doctor asked him why there were litter boxes in the Mentor High School bathrooms. This is a perfect example of how a rumor like this one spreads.

Mr. Heath says that he believes that at the time of the August 2023 board meeting, he had to address this rumor every week that he has worked in the district.

If you happen to hear this rumor from a friend or someone you run into, know that it is false. If you are asked about this rumor, the truthful response is that no, Mentor Schools does not provide litter boxes for students. Rumors like this one are a prime example of why it is important to stay educated and be aware of what is likely fake news. Don’t believe everything you hear right away–do some research of your own.

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