Wisconsin school district does not have ‘furry protocol’
CLAIM: The Waunakee Community School District in a suburb of Madison, Wisconsin, has a “furry protocol” that allows students who identify as “furries” to opt out of speaking in class, sit and lick their paws during gym class and bark and growl in hallways.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The district does not have a protocol for students who identify as animals, and it does not allow disruptions at school, according to Superintendent Randy Guttenberg.
THE FACTS: A baseless rumor that students who dress up as animals are getting special treatment in a Wisconsin school district is circulating widely online this week after a conservative radio host said she’d received an email about the issue last month.
Vicki McKenna, who hosts a show on a Madison AM radio station, said on a March 17 podcast that a she received an email from a grandparent of students in the Waunakee Community School District saying the students were being told to “normalize” the behavior of classmates who preferred to dress and act like animals.
“The Furries can choose whether they want to speak in class or not,” read part of the purported email, shared onscreen in a video version of the podcast hosted by a University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, professor. “The Furrys are allowed to dress in their choice of furry costumes. 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 common place in the hallways at the schools.”
The claim is completely false, according to Guttenberg, who clarified in an email to The Associated Press that “the Waunakee Community School District does not have protocols for Furries, nor do we allow disruptions in our school and classrooms.”
McKenna did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
The bogus claim comes as lawmakers and political candidates have shared similar misinformation about student “furries” in Michigan, Nebraska and other Wisconsin school districts amid the culture wars and legislative action involving gender identification in schools.
Social media comments claiming students who identify as animals are being allowed to use the restrooms incorrectly in Wisconsin’s Denmark School District, Green Bay Area Public School District and Pulaski School District are unfounded, administrators in those districts told the AP.
Craig Janssen, a school board candidate in Denmark School District southeast of Green Bay, advanced the false narrative with a statement on his campaign website about “bodily excretion nonsense that would cause your jaw to drop” happening in local schools.
District Administrator Luke Goral said his staff investigated a rumor that a student urinated on the floor of a school restroom and found no evidence to support it. He said none of the staff in the district have reported students causing a disruption by behaving like animals on campus.
Residents in Denmark School District were voting for candidates in local school board elections on Tuesday. Janssen, who is on the ballot, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Goral said he was aware of misinformation about “furries” in schools spreading in other districts in Wisconsin before it reached his district.
“About six months ago, there were rumors in Seymour, there were rumors in Green Bay, and now I guess it’s just our turn,” Goral said in a phone interview. “If anyone is doing things that are causing a disruption to the learning environment or doing anything as far as using the bathrooms inappropriately, it will be addressed as any other situation will be addressed.”
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.