Jim, who I’ve known for years, and I stood in the warmth of the morning sun about 240 miles away from Warwick, which I suspect from his perspective is a crowded section of New England. …
Jim, who I’ve known for years, and I stood in the warmth of the morning sun about 240 miles away from Warwick, which I suspect from his perspective is a crowded section of New England. He’d be right.
Springfield Center, NY, population 458 comprised of 4.8 square miles according to the Census Reporter, is largely a farming community with a minority of summer residents –some have become full time regulars - who revel in the beauty of rolling mountains, Lake Otsego and its rich history.
Springfield Center has a one engine fire station operated by a volunteer department, two active churches, elementary school converted into a library and town offices, single story house long since converted into a Post Office with is spring loaded screen door that announces arrivals and departures and garage that has forsaken selling gas but offers reliable service. Although three roads converge at the center, there’s no need for a traffic light.
“Sleepy” might be an applicable description for this hamlet, but that would be a misnomer when it comes to issues that, mistakenly, I imagined would never be of concern here. Jim and I started talking on a topic of universal concern – taxes – as school taxes went in the mail last week. Not surprisingly, school taxes went up. A fact we commiserated on.
That took us to schools today and how administrators must be sensitive to the use of pronouns as applied to students. Jim, who runs his own business, and as a general contractor employs subcontractors, has trouble identifying with kids who declare to be transgender. He chalks it up to kids looking for attention, the impact of the internet and parents that have failed to instill sound values. I wasn’t surprised. After all this by and large is a conservative community that I imagined would be less tolerant of homosexuals or accepting them.
But then he introduced me to furries.
“In Richfield Springs (just down Route 20) they have furries in school,” he said.
I’ll confess, I didn’t know what he was talking about.
“They,” he said speaking of the Richfield Springs schools, “have a couple of students who say they are cats.”
Cat? What do they do?
Jim told me they dress in cat outfits, hiss, purr, scratch and bite.
And they’re allowed in school?
“Oh, yes,” he said. He went on to elaborate that schools across the country are having to deal with furries and to accommodate this behavior are forced to provide litter boxes. This was the first I’d heard of this, thinking that I’m surely leading a sheltered life in Warwick.
After Jim left, I did some research on the internet on furries and how schools are dealing with students who identify themselves with animals. I came up with a couple of definitions with the following seeming to be the most comprehensive:
“Furries are people who have an interest in anthropomorphic animals, or animals with human qualities. Many furries create their own animal character, known as a fursona, which functions as their avatar within furry communities.
“While fursonas are each based on an animal — a dog, cat, reptile, bird, wild animal, or even mythical creature — they walk upright like humans do and often have a cartoon-like appearance.
“Furries represent their fursonas through art, writing, online identities, or in the creation of “fursuits,” which are elaborate costumes depicting the individual’s animal. Some fursuits are full costumes, while others are partial, including animal ears, tails, or gloves.
“The furry fandom thrives in the online space, but many individuals also meet locally or nationally to engage with like-minded fans. Each year, furry enthusiasts meet at conferences across the country.
“The community itself is known for its diversity and acceptance. One-third of the furry community identifies as exclusively heterosexual, and furries are five times as likely to identify as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, pansexual) than the general population.”
I didn’t find anything in the local media on furries or on school litter boxes. I did come up with a Nov. 29, 2022 article in Education Week by Libby Stanford. She reported that the Grand Forks school district in North Dakota established a “Rumor Has It” page on its website that debunks false information about the district providing litter boxes for students and teaching critical race theory.
As for Warwick schools, Superintendent Lynn Dambruch looked perplexed when I brought up the topic of furries until I explained what I heard was happening in New York. She is not aware of any Warwick furies. Assistant Superintendent William McCaffrey added that the dress code doesn’t allow for students to wear costumes to class.
When Beacon sports editor Alex Sponseller heard the story, he related how his brother who teaches in Massachusetts was faced with a girl who wore a cat outfit to school. She was told she couldn’t wear it. The girl didn’t return and when he inquired what happened, an administrator told him they knew they had problems when the girl’s parents were dressed as cats to contest the ruling.