Right-wingers are spreading a dubious claim that a school has been forced to recognize children who identify as animals. It’s just the latest in conservative hysteria over gender and sexuality in classrooms, and the district was
While appearing on the right-wing Dr. Duke Show, Wisconsin talk show host Vicki McKenna shared an email that she allegedly received from someone who said their grandchildren attend the Waunakee School District.
The email claims that children in the district “have been instructed to not take pictures of, make fun of, stare at or in anyway call out the behavior of their classmates who are Furrys.”
“Furries” are a subculture of people who dress up as animals (usually in mascot costumes), but right-wingers have increasingly used the term to refer to anyone who dresses up like an animal or pretends to act like one.
“The Furrys are allowed to dress in their choice of furry costumes,” the email continues. “The Furries can choose whether they want to speak in class or not…. The Furries can choose not to run in gym class but instead sit at the feet of their teacher and lick their paws. Barking, hissing and similar animal noises are commonplace in the hallways at the schools…. I am appalled!!!”
McKenna added, “Multiple parents [who] reached out to me after I read that email on the air said this is real.” The show’s host, James (Duke) Pesta called the allegations “the next phase of gender idiocy,” insinuating that they arose from transgender children wanting to be recognized as their true selves in schools.
In response to these claims, the Waunakee School District released a statement on Facebook that said, “Waunakee has no protocols for furries and no issues with disruptions at our middle school or in our classrooms. We do not know the origin of this story or slide, but this may be part of a national rumor.”
The district’s Facebook comment also linked to a story about Nebraska Sen. Bruce Bostelman (R). He recently claimed that schools are providing litter boxes for students who identify as furries. He even went so far as to allege that a student acting like a cat defecated on a classroom floor when their school refused to give them a litter box.
Bostelman has since acknowledged that he was spreading false information.
Even McKenna admitted that furries have long been subject to moral panics by people who overemphasize the sexual aspect of fandom.
Real-life furries say their costumes allow them to express playful and hidden parts of their personalities that are harder to show in human form. The furry community overlaps with the gaming, anime, and fantasy art communities. They’re also known for being pro-LGBTQ and anti-racist.
It’s unsurprising that Dr. Duke’s show would peddle these dubious claims. His show’s previous installments include queerphobic titles such as “Keep Your Kids Away From Disney,” “Top Children’s Hospital Now Teaching Boys How to Tuck Their Genitals,” “Drag Queen Performs at Elementary School Without Parents Being Notified,” and “[Florida Governor] Ron DeSantis Goes to War With Progressives to Protect Kids in the Classroom.”