Eganville – There are students in schools across Renfrew County who identify as animals, although there are no litter boxes in schools.

“That is not a secret,” David Kaiser, vice chair of the Renfrew County District School Board, said on Monday. “It is known throughout the board we do have students who identify as animals.”

There has been a great deal of interest – and backlash on both sides of the issue – in the last several weeks since a letter was published in the Leader, expressing concern about “seven children in the Renfrew public school system identify as animals.”

“Details are hard to find, but it has been confirmed that one student identifies as a frog in one public school and another public school has a litter box in the washroom for a student who identifies as a cat,” the letter writer, Rae Stanley of Barry’s Bay, wrote.

In response, the school board issued a joint release last week with the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board denying there were litter boxes in the schools.

“Please know that the Renfrew County District School Board (RCDSB) and the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board (RCCDSB) do not have, and have never had, litter boxes in any of our elementary or secondary sites.

“Further in the provincially-mandated collection of demographic data, questions of identity are specific to gender,” the release stated. “We do not collect any data regarding animal identity, and we do not recognize such identities.

“The RCDSB and the RCCDSB recognizes, values, accepts and nurtures all students and staff regardless of their gender identity or expression,” the release concluded.

Following the statement from the school boards, the original letter writer again reached out, again confirming there are students who identify as animals in area schools. Mr. Kaiser confirmed this as well to the Leader, although he did note he felt the issue was being sensationalized.

He did confirm there was a request for kitty litter in one school and it was denied by the board.

“This is a controversial issue,” he noted. “Our board is being transparent but the privacy of these students is very important.”

He said he did disagree with some comments which have been attributed to him about the issue of students identifying as animals.

“I have never implied that there is ‘more to this issue’,” he said. “Only that I was informed there were seven students in the county who have self-identified as animals.”

While the board is being transparent about this issue, he said to protect the privacy of these students no further information is being divulged.

Mr. Kaiser is requesting a report on this situation so the board has some facts as well as to know what procedures the board had in place to deal with the situation.

“We need our equity and inclusivity officer to report to the board,” he added.

There is a difference of opinion on how this should be handled, he admitted.

“The kitty litter was a rumour,” he stressed.

Mr. Kaiser said while he has heard from two individuals and the media on this issue, he has not spoken to any concerned parents.

“My last point, and I have shared this with my board colleagues, is that I do believe that these students need some type of support from the board,” he said. “However, before we can get to this point, we need to better understand why this is occurring and how the board is currently dealing with students.”

Board meetings are open to the public and he said he hoped the equity and inclusivity officer would report to the board this fall, although he did not know the date this would happen.

Mr. Kaiser, who was just acclaimed to the board, has 22 years of experience as a trustee.

No Requests in Catholic Board

Bob Schreader, chair of the Renfrew County District Catholic School Board, said the board is not aware of any student who attends Catholic schools in Renfrew County who may identify as an animal.  

“I am also aware that we do not collect any data regarding animal identification and do not recognize such identities,” he said. “The Renfrew County Catholic District School board is an inclusive Catholic learning community called to love unconditionally and educate the hearts and minds in the way of Christ.”