AUSTIN (KXAN) — No, tables are not being lowered at Round Rock Independent School District to accommodate kids who identify as animals and want to eat without their hands, the district said, after a woman running for House District 136 made the claim on social media.
“Cafeteria tables are being lowered in certain @RoundRockISD middle and high schools to allow ‘furries’ to more easily eat without utensils or their hands (ie, like a dog eats from a bowl),” candidate Michelle Evans said in a tweet from what appears to be her campaign account. The post is spreading online.
The comment was made on another post that said litter boxes were being put in Michigan school bathrooms for kids who identify as cats. School districts in Michigan have debunked those viral claims.
“This is absolutely false,” Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, a spokesperson for RRISD, said. “Tables are not being lowered in any Round Rock ISD cafeterias. In fact, cafeteria tables aren’t even equipped to be set up at different heights.”
Evans uses the term “furries” which is generally used to describe a fetish. The term has been more broadly used in these viral claims to loosely mean students who identify as and act like animals.
Evans told KXAN she got the information from “students via their parents” and said she had no additional comment for this story. “I was merely relaying information shared with me privately,” she said.
The comment has been retweeted hundreds of times, has been screenshot and published online and has many comments including one from a woman who says she volunteered in Round Rock ISD lunchrooms recently as they face staff shortages.
“I can confirm that @ThinkerMichelle is very misinformed. Nothing like this is happening, and it’s bizarre and creepy that she even thought of this ridiculous accusation,” the poster responded.
It’s not the first time during this election cycle that RRISD has been the center of political fodder. Allen West, a Texas GOP candidate, vowed in front of Round Rock parents and community members in December that he would launch an investigation into the Round Rock ISD Police Department if elected governor after two men were arrested for their alleged roles in a rowdy board meeting that was cut short.
The school district at the time said RRISDPD was not the arresting agency in that case.
“If they continue to have a police force here at Round Rock, we will have an investigation into their authority and their jurisdiction — because I don’t think they have the ability to go out and do what they did,” West said. He also vowed to fight back against school boards that try to “rule” over parents.
As we near local and state elections, Dr. David Thomason, an associate professor of political science at St. Edwards University, who does a lot of work on school board issues, said to expect more dramatic push and pull surrounding public education.
“We have to be thoughtful and careful about the direction that this kind of dialogue goes because it is dangerous to our democratic system,” Thomason said.
Education has taken a front seat in political discourse over the past few years as disagreements about what’s being taught in schools, paired with heated debates about COVID-19 safety measures have deeply divided parents and school leaders.
It’s not just at the local level, but at the state and national level too. Thomason also pointed to Gov. Greg Abbott broadly making parental rights a pivotal part of his campaign last week, flirting with but not committing to the idea of a school voucher system.
“We can’t continue to find places where we divide, making up stories about, you know, putting tables, lowering tables or other kinds of things,” Thomason said. “We need to be thinking about ways to collaborate.”
The St. Edwards professor said even though the tweet about tables being lowered is an extreme example of misinformation being spread about what’s going on inside our public schools, the issue is much bigger — and it begs voters to keep a wary eye to how public education is being used as a tool for election.
“I think you have to be smart and be thoughtful, as parents or as anyone that’s concerned about our public schools,” Thomason said. “I mean, at the end of the day, it’s the kids, the students in those schools are the ones that we’re preparing for being strong, active, engaged citizens, in our in our democracy.”