Public schools

A North Carolina School District Wants To Ban 'Furry' Costumes

Despite acknowledging that "the costume issue is small," the Iredell-Statesville School Board is suggesting banning animal costumes in response to online rumors.


In one North Carolina school district, students may soon find an unusual new directive in their school's dress code policy: a ban on "furry" costumes.

Officials in the Iredell-Statesville School District, which serves a suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina, appear to be undertaking a strange response to a social media hoax. According to Queen City News, a local news station, the school district was recently inundated with emails alleging that students identifying as "furries" had been coming to schools dressed as animals and bringing litter boxes into school bathrooms. While officials determined that the reports were false, some school board members appear to believe there is some danger to the hoax. As a result, board members have proposed an amendment to the district dress code to officially bar students from wearing "furry" costumes to school, "including tails, gloves, ears, or collars." 

However, the proposed amendment will likely act to stoke overblown culture war fears, not calm them. Not only is a ban on animal costumes an overzealous reaction to a nonexistent problem, but it will also ultimately give ammunition to feckless culture warriors looking for proof, however flimsily, that an internet rumor of wokeness gone awry is true.

Rumors of students identifying as "furries," or animals with a cartoonish animal alter-ego, and using litter boxes in school bathrooms began to circulate in late 2021, with the earliest acknowledgment of the phenomenon by a school district coming in October of that year. The hoax gained widespread traction in January 2022 after the Twitter account Libs of TikTok tweeted a video of a woman at a Michigan school board meeting who claimed that she "heard that at least one of our schools, in our town, has in one of the unisex bathrooms a litter box for the kids that identify as cats." The post received over 4,500 retweets and quote tweets and spurred national coverage of the hoax.

So far, all reports of schools providing litter boxes for "furry" students have proven to be false, but that hasn't kept officials at the Iredell-Statesville school district from falling prey to baseless panic, even if they acknowledge that the online claims aren't true.  

During a recent school board meeting, Iredell-Statesville School District officials said that an unspecified TikTok video spurred rumors that the district was providing litter boxes for "furry" or otherwise animal-identifying students. Board members noted that these rumors, like other similar claims, are baseless. "The kitty litter boxes in the bathrooms, that's not happening," said Board Member Mark Page. "I'm so tired of hearing comments. It seems like it's at one and maybe two of our high schools that these kids are just starting this stuff up."

Despite acknowledging the hoax, the board introduced a proposed amendment to the district's dress code that would ban "a costume or part of a costume including tails, gloves, ears, or collars." The policy contains exceptions for spirit weeks or theatre productions. The new policy appears intended to quash rumors that the school district supports "furry" students by explicitly banning animal costumes. "We're trying to address it before it becomes a major problem," board member Bryan Shoemaker told Queen City News. The board will vote on the amendment next month.

Rather than prevent a "major problem," the district's response seems far more likely to add fuel to furry-rumor flames. After all, why would a school ban animal costumes if fursuit-wearing teenagers weren't rampant? As Page notes, "The costume issue is very small. It's just a small group of the kids that are jerking the chains of adults." However, by suggesting this policy change, it appears that Iredell-Statesville School District officials have allowed a small number of contrarian teenagers to grab their attention—and likely keep rumors about the scourge of "furries" in high schools alive.