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    Students walk out of Utah middle school to protest ‘furries’

    By Trevor MyersSarah Murphy,


    PAYSON, Utah ( ABC4 ) — Several students and adults participated in an hours-long walkout from Utah’s Mt. Nebo Middle School on Wednesday.

    The reason for the protest? Furries.

    A petition was started online on Sunday with an initial target of 500 signatures — a number of signatures that was reached by Wednesday, prompting the goal to increase to 1,000 signatures.

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    The description for the petition says that the administration of the school should more strictly enforce the district’s dress code . Specifically, supporters of the petition are trying to get stronger enforcement for the following section of the dress code:

    Jewelry, accessories, tattoos, hair, facial hair, and other elements of a student’s appearance that draw undue attention, distract, disrupt, or otherwise interfere with the learning atmosphere at school or at school activities and events, or that create a health, safety, or welfare issue are prohibited.

    Section 3.1.8 of “Student Dress and Appearance Standards,” Nebo School District

    What is a furry?

    “Furry is a fandom,” a furry named Strudel told “We don’t think that we’re animals.”

    According to WebMD, a furry is someone who has an interest in animals with human qualities, and who sometimes dresses up as a cartoon-like version of an animal.

    “I really like the idea of animals that walk and talk, so I’m going to dress up as one, as kind of a fun sort of cosplay thing,” Strudel said.

    Strudel said there is a difference between furries and a group called therians, who believe that, on some level, they are an animal.

    WebMD said people are often interested in becoming furries to find a sense of community, though some of the drawbacks they may face are negative stereotypes and social stigmas.

    Why did the students protest furries?

    Videos of the protest were shared on social media by Adam Bartholomew of Main Street Media Utah .

    Students who walked out expressed some of their grievances, even calling for the expulsion and banning of the furries. When Bartholomew asked if their parents knew they were out protesting, the students answered with a resounding “yes.”

    Several children can be seen holding signs reading, “Compelled speech is not free speech.” Another was holding a sign that said “I will not comply,” and another sign said “We just wanted to learn.”

    The students said there are attacks from the furries every day, but were unsure of how many furries there actually are at the school, shouting out numbers ranging from five to 100 students who identify as such.

    The school’s “furry” population is accused of biting, scratching, spraying air freshener on, barking at and chasing other students.

    “We’re standing up for what we believe is right,” a student said.

    What do school officials say?

    “A lot of the information that’s been put out there is completely incorrect and inaccurate,” Nebo School District Public Information Officer Seth Sorensen told

    While Sorensen said there have been issues with harassment or students making others feel uncomfortable or unsafe, he said most of the claims online are false.

    “The administration at the school addressed that with the entire student body and they sent out a couple of emails,” Sorensen said. “Some of those emails were misinterpreted, and parents took to online formats to voice some of their concerns and questions.”

    Sorensen said students are not dressing up as cats and dogs, and because there is a dress code in place, he doesn’t think videos that have been shared online are from Nebo schools. Sorensen emphasized that the main goals of the district are open communication and student safety.

    “Today, we had some students and parents choose to exercise their right to assemble, and do a little protest for what they perceived was something that was happening in the school,” Sorensen said. “It actually is not something that’s been occurring.”

    He said the reports of students dressing as animals are “a little bit inaccurate,” saying students wearing headbands with ears are similar to students wearing bows and sports jerseys. Sorensen said dressing up is “just what students of this age do.”

    “Interestingly enough, they really didn’t address us with anything they wanted changed,” Sorensen said of the protesters.

    He encouraged concerned parties to come into the schools and speak with administrators.

    “We want every student to feel safe when they come to school, and we want students to get along,” Sorensen said. “Let’s all come together and try to support one another, and let’s overlook any differences that we have, and really be a community.”

    What does a furry have to say?

    “Utah in general has a pretty good nerd culture, and while furry is still a little bit fringe in that, we are generally pretty accepted,” Strudel said.

    Strudel said kids “latch onto things really easily” and can see how dressing up at school can be distracting. Strudel also said it may be best to keep the two separate.

    “School is for learning,” Strudel said. “It’s a place of education, first and foremost.”

    Strudel encouraged the students to keep being creative, and to keep pursuing things they like. Strudel also said the main issue appears to be internet safety for children.

    “Sometimes they stumble upon these communities, and they’re not old enough to really understand what that is, or how to behave with it,” Strudel said.

    Videos of the protest have since gone viral on social media.

    Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

    For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to ABC4 Utah.

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