Furries: the biggest problem in Indiana schools according to lawmakers

Laynie Rearick, Staff Writer

When you think of the problems in the school system, what do you think of? The ever-rising number of school shootings in the United States? Raising teachers’ wages? Questioning the validity of standardized tests? Well, at least one Indiana lawmaker would disagree with you.

In a surprising turn of events (not), our state government is once again focusing on “issues” that are actually not issues at all. The latest round of this is Senate Bill 380, authored by Senator Jeff Raatz, meant to address concerns about students who “may be imitating or were behaving like a furry.” (A furry is “a person who identifies with and enjoys dressing as an animal especially as a member of a subculture devoted to the practice,” according to Merriam-Webster. Think of cosplay, where people dress up as characters they like from popular media.)

Though there is no evidence that a large number of students in Indiana schools are dressing up as furries, when introducing the bill, Raatz claimed to the Senate’s education committee that parents and school employees brought their complaints to his attention. However, the bill doesn’t actually require schools to make any changes to their dress code—it just reinforces the idea that the school can. This is completely redundant.

This bill comes more than a year after the “cat litter box” controversy first originated in the U.S., revolving around a school in Michigan in December 2021. Starting with a comment at a school board meeting, a Michigan state Republican leader amplified the rumors, claiming that the school was being forced to accommodate students who identified as cats by providing them with litter boxes in bathrooms. This quickly became a Republican talking point to show how “liberals have gone too far,” insisting that allowing children to identify as a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth leads to them identifying as animals.

This is probably the biggest example of a non-issue I can think of. The only official record of cat litter ever being on a school campus is in Jefferson County, Colo. where the 1999 Columbine school shooting took place—it’s included as part of “go buckets” that contain emergency supplies in case students are locked in a classroom during a shooting. The buckets also contain candy for diabetic students, a map of the school, flashlights, wet wipes, and first-aid items.

At the end of the day, if anti-trans rhetoric is what Indiana lawmakers are choosing to spend their energy on instead of actual problems in the education system, all I can advise people to do is think very carefully about who they elect into office the next time they vote.