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Are there furries in Fargo-Moorhead schools? Yes, but no litter boxes

Fargo School Board member Jennifer Benson told The Forum that a student informed her some schools have litter boxes in restrooms for students who identify as furries. Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo school districts all denied the litter box claim. Similar claims have popped up around the country.

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Illustration by Troy Becker
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Story in audio:

FARGO — Furries, people dressing up and acting like cartoon animals, are nothing new, but the issue of students identifying as cats in class has begun to attract attention.

In Detroit, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Bismarck, now Fargo-Moorhead and elsewhere, some people have accused school districts of accommodating furries by putting litter boxes in restrooms. This claim has been made locally, but denied by Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo school districts.

And while district spokespeople say they've had no issues with furries and that school officials have not put out litter boxes in school restrooms, Fargo School Board member Jennifer Benson told The Forum furries are real and that a student informed her some schools have litter boxes in restrooms for them. Asked for a photo or video of a litter box in a school restroom, Benson did not provide such evidence to The Forum as of publication time.

"The students I have talked to say ‘furries are everywhere, they are in all of our schools,’” Benson wrote in an email to The Forum. “They said ‘furries wear collars, tails, headband ears, leashes, and some hiss and bark.’”

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Benson said she's received reports from parents and students that furries are currently at Ben Franklin and Carl Ben Eielson middle schools in Fargo, as well as schools in West Fargo and Moorhead.

“In one of my conversations this afternoon," Benson wrote Tuesday, March 29, "a student did inform me there are now litter boxes in Moorhead school restroom(s)."

Local parents told The Forum their children report the presence of furries in area middle and high schools. However, Moorhead, Fargo and West Fargo public school districts all told The Forum that there was no truth to claims that school restrooms had litter boxes.

“FPS is not setting up restrooms with any sort of litter boxes for students. There is no truth to that. This has also been a rumor in other states, ie: Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan,” said AnnMarie Campbell, a spokeswoman for Fargo Public Schools.

“I am not aware of any of this type of activity happening at Moorhead Area Public Schools,” said Brenda Richman, district spokeswoman.

Steve Wyatt, a south Fargo resident, brought the issue to the Fargo School Board's attention in a March 27 email to all board members.

In the email, Wyatt asked about the veracity of students dressing up as furries and if the district was building gender-neutral bathrooms for them.

“I want answers to these questions asap,” Wyatt wrote. “I am willing to take this a lot farther than this email. I’ve heard that all they do is lick themselves and meow during class. I’d suggest you look into this immediately because I am, and there’s going to be a storm coming your way.”

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When reached by The Forum, Wyatt said he’s still investigating the issue but that he's more than a little concerned if his tax dollars are being spent to accommodate furries.

“What they do at home is one thing, but in public school, our tax dollars should not fund this. There are many questions that I’m sure most people will have,” Wyatt said.

Superintendent Rupak Gandhi wrote back to Wyatt, saying: “Your comments below are not true and we are unaware of what you are referencing.”

Seth Holden, a Fargo School Board member, said he believes the claims are political in nature.

“Sounds to me like a made up problem, another spit balling attempt by those who want to dismantle public education to help push the narrative that we’re ‘failing our kids.’ I chalk it up with CRT (critical race theory), transgender bathrooms, transgender athletics, pledge of allegiance, etc…” Holden wrote in an email to The Forum.

“These people will stop at nothing until every dollar that goes to public education is siphoned off and goes to private schools, home schooling and voucher systems so they can indoctrinate their kids and the rest of us have to suffer the consequences,” Holden wrote.

Fargo School Board member Robin Nelson said she had never heard of the furries phenomenon until she read Wyatt's email. She said the same complaint was made in the Bismarck School District a few weeks ago.

“I was told people who refer to themselves as ‘furries’ wear a headband with cat ears. Apparently it is a social media (TikTok?) craze as well,” Nelson wrote in an email to The Forum.

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In Bismarck Public Schools, students have a dress code and aren’t allowed to wear costumes, said Steve Koontz, a district spokesman. Recently, “one or two” students did try to wear cat ears to class, but they were told to take them off.

“This is a manifestation of a national news narrative. This is something that has become a widespread story. We haven’t had any litter boxes within our schools. Additionally I’d say there is a student dress code in place, so costumes are not allowed, so anyone wearing a costume will have to take off their costume,” Koontz said.

The dress code of Fargo Public Schools does not mention costumes. However, if wearing a costume outside of a themed day at a school would impede the educational process, then administration would work with the student, Campbell said.

One of the first reports of litter boxes in schools occurred before Christmas last year in Michigan when a parent raised concerns about putting litter boxes in “unisex bathrooms.”

During a Midland Public Schools Board of Education meeting, a woman said she was informed the day before that litter boxes had been added to the restrooms for students who identify as cats.

Her complaint was later discussed by lawmakers, and on Jan. 20 Superintendent Michael Sharrow debunked the accusation in a Facebook post , saying that the fact he had to address the issue publicly was “unconscionable.”

“Let me be clear … there is no truth whatsoever to this false statement/accusation. There have never been litter boxes within MPS schools,” Sharrow said.

C.S. Hagen is an award-winning journalist currently covering the education and activist beats mainly in North Dakota and Minnesota.
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