A SCHOOL in Aberdeenshire was forced to dismiss claims that pupils were identifying as cats and defecating on the floor after a conspiracy theory spread rapidly on social media.

The rumour alleged that numerous children at Banff Academy had requested litter boxes be provided in the school’s bathrooms.

It then claimed that when this request was denied, children had taken to defecating on the floor of the toilet.

But despite The National highlighting how the story bore an identical resemblance to one propagated by right-wing conspiracy theorists in the United States many still refused to believe the incident did not take place.

A video was “doing the rounds” on social media which proved it, many insisted.

In a now deleted post on the Real Banff and Macduff Community Facebook group, parents said their children had confirmed story.

So, what really happened?

In a renewed statement a spokesperson for Aberdeenshire Council and Banff Academy said the rumours surrounding the school were “disappointing”.

“We are aware of false rumours circulating online suggesting that Banff Academy has pupils identifying as cats requesting litter trays in the academy toilets.

“It is disappointing to see this rumour continue to spread. However, both Aberdeenshire Council and Banff Academy continue to focus on the well-being and education of our children and young people.”

READ MORE: Aberdeenshire school forced to deny children are identifying as cats

One of the factors that appeared to lend the conspiracy credence was a four-second video being shared on TikTok, which showed a public bathroom with faeces on the ground.

However, The National was unable to confirm whether this video was recorded in Banff Academy.

Furthermore, its existence does not prove the veracity of story being spread online.

According to the Press and Journal, staff at Banff Academy have cleaned up faeces in the past – but there is no evidence that this came from children identifying as cats.

Why does this matter?

This story first appeared in America in 2021 and coincided with a moral panic surrounding the affirmation of LGBT+ identities in schools.

Republican politicians have spread the unfounded claim so much that it has been subject to repeated fact checks by news organisations in the US, and even has its own Wikipedia page.

According to one LGBT+ rights organiser in Colorado, the rumour is used to “sensationalise truth, and to harm our community” - in particular transgender children.

Indeed, recent months have seen a wave of legislative proposals in various US states which would require teachers to notify parents if their child is identifying as transgender at school.

SNP MSP Karen Adam (below), who represents the Banffshire region, told The National that the story was being used to “stir-up hatred”.

READ MORE: Council of Europe hears call for UK gender bill block to be overturned

The National:

She said: “Unfortunately there are groups of people organising out there who are wilfully spreading ludicrous propaganda about students identifying as cats in schools.

"We know this originated in the USA where it has now made its way over to right-wing reactive organisations in Scotland who have also now chosen to push the same bizarre narrative that has been dispelled, multiple times, in the USA.

“Make no mistake, this narrative has been carefully manufactured and fabricated from extreme right-wing religious fundamentalist churches from the States to create a state of confusion to stir up hatred, via an orchestrated campaign to spread misinformation, in the same way that they have semi-successfully done so with Gender Recognition Reform (GRR).

“This is evidently a tactic to push national conversation over to entirely bizarre topics to stir up hatred against a wider community or minority group of people to cast suspicion over them. It’s worth asking ourselves about the intention behind these extreme right-wing religious groups from the USA doing this?”

READ MORE: BBC's Fiona Bruce accused of defending Nadhim Zahawi on Question Time

Groups such as Us For Them Scotland – which recently promoted an anti-gender reform protest outside the Scottish Parliament where LGBT counter-protesters were later called “paedophiles” and “child groomers” – continue to spread the story on their social media pages and assert its truthfulness despite a lack of evidence and a strenuous denial from the school.

Guy Ingerson, the co-convener of the Scottish Greens in Aberdeen, said that it was no coincidence that the story had arisen at a time when LGBT+ rights in Scotland are such a hot topic.

He said: “On the surface, this story seems ridiculous, but it’s origins are concerning and more sinister.

“We are currently in the throes of a moral panic towards trans people in Scotland and the wider UK.

"Online and in our media we see various dangerous, misleading, and false stories peddled by bigoted extremists regards LGBT+ people, our culture and lives. As a result, reported hate crimes towards LGBT+ people are on the rise and some are even calling for a new Section 28.

“Our schools should be a welcoming place for LGBT+ kids. I’d urge people to fact check what they read online and remember that LGBT+ kids shouldn’t be mocked, bullied and abused at school. All LGBT+ people should be able to live our lives free of discrimination and prejudice.”