Emails show JeffCo school administrators knew “furries” were an issue but publicly denied it

By Shaun Boyd Oct 31 2022 – CBS COLORADO

One month after Jefferson County school administrators denied that kids were dressing up as so-called “furries” at school, CBS News Colorado has obtained emails showing the district was aware of the issue and yet denied it was happening.

Darlene Edwards is among the parents who wrote in. She says when her 14-year-old son came home from school and said classmates were dressing up in animal costumes, she initially urged him to just ignore them.

“It got progressively worse,” Edwards told CBS News Colorado. “He said, ‘but mom they’re scratching hissing and barking.’ He was getting agitated overwhelming frustrated.”

Edwards says her son – who is on the autism spectrum – became so upset that she sent an email to the JeffCo school district saying, “He does not see the fairness of these students being able to act inappropriately and dress in a manner that is disruptive to learning.”

According to her 6th grade niece, she told the district, the kids also “walk on all 4s in the hallway… eat with their face in their food” and refer to themselves as “animal avengers.”

An open records request shows Edwards is among at least two dozen parents who’ve written the district over the last eight months. Most of them refer to the kids as “furries.”

But it wasn’t until Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl raised the issue in a radio interview – saying “kids are identifying as cats” – that it erupted in controversy. Ganahl is the latest in a string of Republican candidates nationwide to condemn furries. Some of them have used anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.

Edwards was a registered Democrat until this year. She is now unaffiliated and, she says, she is pro-LGBTQ.

“I have a niece that is lesbian she specifically said this is not an LGBTQ group. It’s frustrating that it turned political rather than what’s best for the kids at school.” 

She’s even more frustrated that school administrators got caught up in the politics.

Kimberly Eloe, executive director of communications for JeffCo Schools, issued a statement at the end of September saying, “there is absolutely no truth to this claim. There are no furries or students identifying as such.”

But through an open records request, CBS News Colorado found earlier emails that appear to contradict that. In one email, from August Superintendent Tracy Dorland asks, “Who is going to respond to the emails about furries?”

In another email, Deputy Superintendent Kym LeBlanc-Esparza says, “We have all received the emails about the furries in schools..” 

And in yet another email, Tara Pena, chief of family school and community partnerships, wonders, “If it [would be] helpful to mention that calling into question students dressing or “identifying” as furries is part of a larger, national political platform to further marginalize our transgender and lgbtq+ students.” 

Edwards is baffled, “Why are you trying to cover it up, rather than deal with it on the level it is?” 

School Board Member Susan Miller asked the same question: “We can see in the emails our parents raised issues with it and I don’t think we should be saying our parents are lying.”

She says in a district where enrollment has dropped by 30,000 students and where most kids are not reading or doing math at grade level, Miller said they need parental involvement and can’t afford distractions.

“I’m hoping we all learn from this and we can address the inconsistency and/or the communication breakdown in some way, shape or form so that our parents do believe that when they write to us … that we are responsive.”

Edwards says she wants school administrations to issue a public statement that sets the record straight, saying parents and kids deserve that, “I will continue making waves, I will continue going to his principal, I will continue contacting Jefferson County until they acknowledge that it’s happening and they need to address it.”

CBS News Colorado asked Eloe to explain why she denied furries were an issue, despite emails showing otherwise, but she wouldn’t answer the question, sending the following statement:

“Our principals work with their staff to follow district policy around appropriate dress code. If clothing is disruptive, district policy gives principals the power to place restrictions on it, this would include students dressing in costume. We respectfully decline to comment any further on this issue.”

Shaun Boyd is the Political Specialist at CBS News Colorado


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