By Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily
A long-debunked internet rumor was squelched again Tuesday when the Campbell County School District Board of Trustees buried the notion it’s placed litter boxes in school bathrooms to accommodate students who identify as animals.
After hearing from parents concerned about the potential for public schools in Gillette to include “furries” in their policies of gender and identity equality, board Vice Chairperson Lisa Durgin said trustees “didn’t know this was an issue for some people until recently.”
Furries are people who like to dress up as, and in some cases also behave as, animals. That public schools around the United States are accepting of and accommodating furries as an identity in the same vein as gender and sexual orientation has been disproved many times over the past decade.
Apparently, the rumor is making the rounds on Facebook in Campbell County.
Durgin said she’s been asked about the district’s furry policy by some parents, as has trustee Linda Bricker, who brought the issue to the board Tuesday.
Parent has questions
Gretchen Baldwin is one of those parents who asked Bricker about furries in local schools.
“I don’t know what is true and what is not,” Baldwin told Cowboy State Daily.
Baldwin said that while she’s skeptical of the notion of teachers being compelled to treat students like animals or that litter boxes have been added to bathrooms, “I feel it’s important it’s not slid in there somewhere.”
She also said it’s difficult to know what to believe when the social grapevine gets involved.
“I heard from several teachers at our school and from parents in town who are saying it’s happening,” Baldwin said. “I’ve heard some kids are bringing their own litter boxes in and that’s, like, insanity, especially for a school.”
Baldwin said the response from the school board was clear that there are no litter boxes and no policies about accommodating furry behavior.
“It’s kind of just something I’ve heard just occasionally, but most people who asked me about it felt this was a made-up rumor,” Durgin said. “It’s never been anything really serious. It’s been more talk around town.”
Along with being a longtime school board member, Durgin has had children in the public school system for the past 20 years. She said in all that time, she’s never come across anything like that as a parent.
“We deal with a lot of issues and we’re solving problems for kids every day,” Durgin said. “There’s not a day that goes by where a teacher isn’t helping a kid solve a problem of some kind.”
But sorting out a furry identity isn’t among those problems, she said.
“There’s nothing like that … and there’s definitely not a policy about it,” During said. “If people have identity issues or crises, we handle kids on an individual basis on lots of things.”
One reason the rumor about furries in schools is making the rounds again may be the release earlier this year of the documentary “What is a Woman?”
In it, a family therapist named Sara Stockton repeats the claims that students in classrooms are self-identifying as animals and cause disruptions.
“So now we are seeing kids that are identifying as animals going to school and they are purring instead of answering questions, and they meow, and the teachers are not allowed to question it because it’s considered a queer identity,” she says in the documentary.
Filmmaker Matt Walsh responds: “The teachers have to affirm them as a cat? So, the schools are literal zoos now.”
In response to “What is a Woman?” and persisting social media rumors, Reuters news agency fact-checked the claims and reports it “found no evidence of them disrupting classrooms or schools developing a policy of including them as a formal identity.”
As far as Durgin is concerned, debating a disproven rumor takes away from doing more meaningful work for students.
“These issues come up because people just want to stir things up,” she said. “They hear it on a national level and read it on Facebook. What it really does is waste a lot of time.”