School district disputes Colorado GOP governor candidate’s claims that ‘many’ students identify as cats
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- In an appearance on conservative talk radio on Sept. 24, Republican candidate for Colorado Governor, Heidi Ganahl, said she moved her kids out of one Colorado school district and into another four years ago to escape 'furries' in their schools.
Ganahl told KNUS host Jimmy Sengenberger, "Have you heard about this story? Kids identifying as cats. It sounds absolutely ridiculous, but it’s happening all over Colorado and schools are tolerating it."
In an interview with KRDO on Tuesday, Sept. 27, Ganahl doubled down on the comments, saying that kids are identifying as cats in Colorado.
Below is Ganahl's response when asked that question during a longer interview Tuesday:
"This is this really weird phenomenon that's happening in middle schools and high schools. It's actually been going on for a couple of years. It's called 'furries,'" Ganahl continued. "Kids, they've gone through a really tough time and they're struggling. So I have a lot of compassion for kids that are having difficulty right now. But schools tolerating kids dressing up as cats is not appropriate."
When asked if she had seen any specific examples, Ganahl said, "Many, many."
"We have all the parents, across the Denver metro area at least, sending emails and examples to the reporter who wrote that story, and the other reporters who are interested."
Ganahl then went on to talk about other issues she believes are pertinent in Denver Public Schools.
But, in an interview that aired on FOX 31 in Denver, Ganahl said it was happening in Jefferson County schools. The Jefferson County School District disputes that. A district spokesperson told FOX 31, "there is absolutely no truth to this claim."
"There are no litter boxes in our buildings and students are not allowed to come to school in costume. There are no furries or students identifying as such during the school day," the spokesperson told FOX 31.
KRDO has reached out to the school district for comment but has not heard back. Ganahl did not mention litter boxes in her comments to KRDO.
According to a CNN article from 2019, Furries are a subculture that often involves people dressing up as anthropomorphic animal characters and attending conventions. It does not have any connection to gender identity or sexual orientation.
Claims similar to Ganahl's, have been used by some to conflate the existence of furries with transgender students.
Students identifying as cats are considered to be a hoax that first came into prominence at a Michigan school board hearing last year, and has been repeatedly denied by school officials throughout the country. Still, the theory has spread online and was recently repeated by the Republican candidate for governor of Minnesota.
On Monday, Ganahl's campaign issued the following statement in response to this story, "This is yet another example of how Jared Polis is living on Fantasy Island. As I’ve traveled and met with Coloradans across the state, I’ve been struck by how worried they are about many things, including the politicization of the classroom, which is distracting educators from addressing the shocking decline in Colorado's academic achievement and teen mental health. Parents are ticked off. We need to listen to parents, teachers and students. They are the ones that know what is happening in schools – not legislators that voted down transparency in schools, lazy members of the media, and certainly not our out of touch Governor. Jared Polis denies that this is happening so he doesn’t have to take responsibility for it. We must hold him accountable in this election."
KRDO reached out to the Colorado Department of Education about these claims. Officials said that while it is required by state statute to record identifying information on students from school districts, it does not track students identifying as cats. The state does track race, ethnicity, and gender.
Ganahl's opponent, Democrat incumbent Governor Jared Polis Tweeted about her comments to KRDO, writing, "My opponent is focused on furries. I’m focused on empowering parents and helping kids get a great education in Colorado, starting with high-quality preschool and kindergarten, improving access to career skills in high school, and reducing the costs of higher education."