No, neither Lamoille Union High School nor any other school in Lamoille County is providing litter boxes in school bathrooms for the use of students who identify as “furries,” a term for those interested in dressing up as anthropomorphized animals.
Despite how silly this might sound to many, multiple tips and calls received by this newspaper in the past six months have inquired whether this rumor was true.
“One parent has called me directly about this,” Bethann Pirie, Lamoille Union principal, said. “Family members and other people in the community who care about our schools have pointed out that these rumors are circulating on social media, not just about Lamoille, but about schools across the country.”
Lamoille South Unified Union Superintendent Ryan Heraty has heard the rumors too.
“Two months ago, someone asked me about that via email and asked if it was true,” Heraty said. “I was pretty caught off guard. Obviously, it’s not true, so I don’t know where people are coming up with this stuff.”
Lamoille schools are not alone in being targeted by litter box rumors. The rumor has caused a stir in schools in Texas, Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa and other states across the country, prompting school officials to address it with families and school boards, just as Pirie plans to with the Lamoille North Supervisory Union board.
In most instances, the rumors emanate from right-wing echo chambers and other conservative officials, connecting acceptance of furries to the broader culture war about accommodating transgender youth in schools.
It’s this connection that concerns Lamoille North superintendent Catherine Gallagher the most, who reiterated her support for the district’s LGBTQ community and derided the rumors as harmful.
“We’re experiencing a generational shift in how young people think and talk about gender identity. Students are much more open about who they are and, for the most part, their peers are very accepting and encouraging of them,” Pirie said. “Ensuring that all our students feel welcome in our communities is work that never ends, so our school continues to make sure that all of our students feel welcome, even as people outside of our schools spread false and demeaning rumors.”
Pirie invited anyone with questions or concerns to reach out to her directly.
“I want to be sure that our school is providing the community with opportunities to engage with us. Most people reach out to raise legitimate concerns. There is a big difference between those legitimate concerns and these rumors. Legitimate concerns can help our school community grow, whereas these sorts of rumors really hurt our school community,” she said.