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Republicans introduced a bill to ban students who identify as animals from public schools

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One of the more bizarre rumors to come out of the fever swamp of online anti-transgender misinformation has been the myth that schools across the U.S. have had to install litterboxes to accommodate students who identify as cats. Now, North Dakota Republicans have gone so far as to include language banning students who identify as animals from public schools in their latest anti-trans bill.

“A board of a school district, a public or private school, or a teacher in a public or private school may not … Adopt a policy establishing or providing a place, facility, school program, or accommodation that caters to a student’s perception of being any animal species other than human,” a section of the bill, introduced Wednesday by six Republican members of the North Dakota Legislature, reads.

As NBC News reports, the bill is primarily aimed at prohibiting North Dakota schools from accommodating students who identify as transgender.

The litterbox rumor, which appears to have originated at a December 2021 Michigan school board meeting, has been thoroughly debunked. School officials across the country have said they have never been asked to install litterboxes in school bathrooms, and even Joe Rogan has admitted that a story he told on his podcast about a girl using a litterbox at school was untrue. But that has not stopped Republican lawmakers and candidates—Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Nebraska state Rep. Bruce Bostleman (R), Republican Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), and Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) among them—from repeating the rumor in an attempt to stoke anti-trans sentiment.

One of the North Dakota bill’s sponsors, Rep. Lori VanWinkle (R), insisted that students who identify as non-human animals are actually a problem in the state. “Yes we have people who would like to claim themselves as animals such as cats and dogs,” she wrote in an email to NBC News, citing no evidence.

But, if passed, the bill will have real consequences for trans and nonbinary students. Among other restrictions, it would ban teachers from using students’ “preferred gender pronoun, if the perceived or expressed gender is inconsistent with the student’s” sex assigned at birth. Schools that violate the policy could face up to $500,000 in fines.

North Dakota lawmakers have already rejected another anti-trans law that would have imposed a $1,500 fine each time they referred to themselves or others with pronouns that differ from those they were assigned at birth.

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