It started with a comment at a school board meeting, which was then amplified by a Republican leader from the state of Michigan, and culminated with a school principal explaining that, no, there was no litter boxes on school grounds for students to use if they identify as furries. .
“It is inadmissible that this afternoon I am sending this communication,” Midland Public Schools Superintendent Michael Sharrow wrote Thursday in an email to parents that was also shared on Facebook. “However, our Midland PS stakeholders may be confused about a false post/accusation that has resurfaced this week and is gaining traction in the social media arena.”
The rumor that furries – people who are interested in anthropomorphic animal characters and sometimes dress up as them – used litter boxes in the school district, located about two hours northwest of Detroit, seems to have started when from a school council session last month, based on a video of the meeting.
A member of the public who spoke at the meeting, Lisa Hansen, says in the video that she was told by someone the day before the meeting that litter boxes had been added to “unisex bathrooms for students who “identify as cats”.
“I was stunned,” Ms Hansen says in the video. “And today I’m also stunned and a little upset – well, not a little, a lot upset. Furious – I would even use that word.
Ms Hansen says in the video that there is an “agenda that is being pushed in our schools that is – just my opinion – but somewhat nefarious when it comes to some of the activities”.
She goes on to say that this is a “national” problem, adding: “I’m all for creativity and imagination, but when someone lives in a fantasy world and expects that others accept it, I have a problem with that. .”
Ms Hansen, who could not be reached on Saturday, also says in the video that she plans to do more “investigation” into the matter.
School board members present at the meeting did not respond to Ms. Hansen’s comments, but her remarks gained traction after Meshawn Maddock, chairwoman of the Republican Party of Michigan, shared a video of the school board meeting and comments on Facebook on Thursday.
“Children who identify as ‘furries’ have a litter box in the school bathroom,” Ms Maddock wrote in a Facebook post sharing the video of the council meeting. “Hero parents WILL TAKE BACK our schools.”
In his statement, Mr. Sharrow debunked the rumor as categorically false.
“Let me be clear in this communication,” he wrote. “There is no truth in this false statement/accusation! There have never been litter boxes in MPS schools.
Mr. Sharrow did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday. The Republican Party of Michigan did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday and Ms Maddock could not be reached.
According to Furscience, a website run by a multidisciplinary team of scientists studying furry fandom, “furry describes a diverse community of fans, artists, writers, gamers, and roleplayers.”
“Most furries create for themselves an anthropomorphized animal persona (fursona) with which they identify and can function as an avatar within the community,” the website states.
In mass media, furs are commonly associated with sexual fetishes, the website states, but “the most cited appeal to the furry fandom is its sense of belonging, recreation, and escape from the mundaneness of daily life”.
Sharon E. Roberts, associate professor of social development studies at the University of Waterloo in Canada and founder of Furscience, said in an email Saturday that she could not comment specifically on the Michigan school because she was unfamiliar with the situation.
She added, however, that “there is evidence of significant misrepresentation and misunderstanding by the furry fandom leading to claims like this (and worse).”
Mr Sharrow, the superintendent, citing as a backdrop “this divisive/litigious world we find ourselves in right now”, urged parents to contact him if rumors like this surface again.
“It is such a source of disappointment that I felt the need to deliver this message to you,” he wrote.