School officials say ‘furries’ talk is ridiculous after Nebraska lawmaker raises the issue

Nebraska state senator later says schools were contacted and rumors were debunked

By: - March 28, 2022 3:46 pm
Floor of the Nebraska Legislature

The floor of Nebraska’s unique Unicameral Legislature. (Rebecca S. Gratz for Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — Officials with the Seward and Adams Central school districts on Monday labeled as “ridiculous” and “an ugly rumor” talk that students have dressed up as cats and dogs and have requested litter boxes to handle their bathroom needs.

Officials with both the Millard and Omaha public schools also said they were unaware of anything of that nature happening in their schools.

State Sen. Bruce Bostelman
State Sen. Bruce L. Bostelman of Brainard (Gregory Nathan/University Communication)

The districts were contacted by the Nebraska Examiner after State Sen. Bruce Bostelman of Brainard spoke on the floor of the State Legislature on Monday. He said he was “shocked” that schoolchildren have been allowed by school officials to dress up as “furries,” interacting with teachers using meows and barks, and requesting litter boxes.

“How is that sanitary?” Bostelman asked. “How can schools allow this to happen?”

Later, on Monday afternoon, the senator said that he and Fremont Sen. Lynn Walz, the head of the Legislature’s Education Committee, had contacted several schools and found the talk to be untrue.

“We wanted to put an end to it,” Bostelman said, after his earlier speech was widely shared via Twitter. He said he “just wanted to make sure it wasn’t happening here.”

Heard story at meeting

Earlier Monday, Bostelman had said he had even heard from some Millard-area parents that a student, dressed as a cat, had asked for a litter box, and when that request was denied, had defecated on a floor.

When asked what schools he was referencing, Bostelman said Omaha and Seward, adding that he had talked to some parents from Millard at a meeting over the weekend who related the story about the furry cat. Hastings Sen. Steve Halloran said he has also heard it was a problem at Adams Central schools in his district.

‘An ugly rumor’

But school officials called the issue a myth. It appears to be a continuation of rumors that have been debunked in schools in Midland, Michigan, and Carroll, Iowa. Some reports have also tied the accusations to right-wing attacks on public schools.

Sen. Steve Halloran
State Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings
(Courtesy Unicameral Information Office)

“This is ridiculous,” said Dr. Josh Fields, the superintendent of the Seward Public Schools.

“It’s an ugly rumor,” said Shawn Scott, the superintendent Adams Central, which issued a statement on Feb. 18 shooting down the rumor.

Rebecca Kleeman, a spokeswoman for Millard Public Schools, said she is unaware of any incidents involving furries or requests for litter boxes.

Bostelman made the comments during a debate over a bill, introduced by Gretna Sen. Jen Day, that would require schools to have “points of contact” for students with behavioral health issues,

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. He started his career reporting for the Omaha Sun and later, editing the Papillion Times group in suburban Omaha. He joined the Lincoln Journal-Star as a sports enterprise reporter, and then a roving reporter covering southeast Nebraska. In 1990, he was hired by the Omaha World-Herald as a legislative reporter. Later, for 15 years, he roamed the state covering all kinds of news and feature stories. In the past decade, he served as chief of the Lincoln Bureau and enterprise reporter. Paul has won awards for reporting from Great Plains Journalism, the Associated Press, Nebraska Newspaper Association and Suburban Newspapers of America. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.