IW GOP Facebook comment sparks backlash from school officials

Published 6:18 pm Monday, June 3, 2024

Isle of Wight County’s Republican Party chapter took heat on May 31 for a now-deleted comment on Isle of Wight County Schools’ Facebook page.

“Is it true that you are allowing students to identify as a ‘Furry’ on top of that does the board even know what’s even going on about that?” the official Isle of Wight Republican Party Facebook page commented on an IWCS post congratulating Colleen Loud, director of accountability and assessment, as the May recipient of the division’s “Inspire, Succeed, Lead, Empower,” or ISLE, Award.

The comment prompted a reply by IWCS and its School Board chairman denying the allegation and characterizing the comment as inappropriate.

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“First, this post is not an appropriate place for your question,” the division’s reply stated. “Second, no. Please contact us through our website if you have other inquiries, and not on posts celebrating the accomplishments of others.”

School Board Chairman Jason Maresh also weighed in, stating “I generally avoid responding to Facebook comments, but as the Chairman of the IWCS Board I feel compelled to express my complete and total discust (sic) with this sort of unwarranted nonsense on post aimed to recognize achievements within our public schools.”

Isle of Wight Republican Party Chairman Bill Yoakum did not immediately respond to The Smithfield Times’ request for comments. It’s unclear who affiliated with the Isle of Wight GOP posted the comment on behalf of the party.

According to WebMD, “furries” refer to a subculture of people with an interest in anthropomorphic animals, or animals with human qualities, many of whom create their own character, known as a “fursona.” Furries represent their “fursona” through art, writing, online identities or the creation of costumes dubbed “fursuits.”

According to a 2022 report by NBC News, at least 20 GOP candidates and elected officials claimed without evidence that year that K-12 school systems were placing litter boxes in schools for students who identified as cats.

Education Week, a 1981-founded nationwide news outlet covering the K-12 sector, reported that same year that “it’s unclear exactly where the litter box hoax came from.”

“In December 2021, a community member shared the rumor during the public comment section of a Midland Public School Board meeting in Michigan that was later debunked by the school district,” the EdWeek article stated. “But that didn’t stop Meshawn Maddock, a leader of the Michigan Republican Party, from sharing it on Facebook and spreading it further,” citing concurrent reporting by the New York Times. Among the highest profile GOP legislators to spread the rumor is U.S. Rep. Lauren Bobert, R-Colo., who according to NBC repeated the claim at a 2022 luncheon for Republican women in that state’s Mesa County.