(JTA) — Ohio’s department of education is investigating a homeschooling network that claims public schools are run by “Zionist scum,” teaches kids to say “Sieg Heil” in class and instructs fellow parents not to give their kids “Jewish media content.”
These are the more than 2,500 members of the “Dissident Homeschool Network,” a channel on the social network messaging app Telegram. The “dissidents” are a group of Nazi parents who share homeschooling lesson plans extolling the virtues of Hitler and white nationalism — while relying on a popular social media account run by a Jewish woman to provide ammunition for their hatred. The founders of the group were recently unmasked by a hate group monitor as a couple in rural Upper Sandusky, Ohio.
“There is absolutely no place for hate-filled, divisive and hurtful instruction in Ohio’s schools, including our state’s home-schooling community,” Stephanie Siddens, the interim superintendent of public instruction at Ohio’s education department, told Vice News. “I emphatically and categorically denounce the racist, antisemitic and fascist ideology and materials being circulated.”
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, along with Rep. Bob Latta, whose district encompasses Upper Sandusky, and Rep. Jim Jordan, all gave statements to Vice News condemning the group. But Ohio officials say that there is little to no homeschooling oversight from the state board of education. Although parents who homeschool are required to submit copies of their lesson plans to the state, a county official who oversees the area where the Lawrences live told HuffPost, “Parents who decide to home educate their child are responsible for choosing the curriculum and course of study.”
“We are so deeply invested into making sure that [our] child becomes a wonderful Nazi,” the founder of Dissident Homeschool Network, who goes by the pseudonym “Mrs. Saxon,” recently said on a neo-Nazi podcast to promote the group. She has been identified by the Anonymous Comrades Collective, an anti-Nazi group, as well as Vice News and HuffPost, as Katja Lawrence, a Dutch immigrant who currently lives in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.
Lawrence is a recently naturalized U.S. citizen who frequently rails against other groups of immigrants on social media; her husband Logan is an insurance agent. The Lawrences are so enamored of Nazidom that Katja uploaded audio of her own kids performing Nazi salutes to her Telegram channel, and baked a cake to celebrate Hitler’s birthday.
The journalists and researchers who reported on Dissident Homeschool Network were able to track the couple down after they revealed that they owned a German shepherd named Blondi — also the name of Hitler’s dog.
Launched in fall 2021, the Lawrences’ homeschooling project is explicitly labeled as a means for neo-Nazi parents to indoctrinate their kids by keeping them away from public school. Lesson plans include teaching cursive by having students write out famous quotes from Hitler and American neo-Nazi George Lincoln Rockwell; building “math” classes around racist manipulations of urban crime statistics; and praising Confederate general Robert E. Lee as “a grand role model for young, white men.” In idle chats, members of the group disparaged the Indiana Jones movies as “Jewish revenge porn.”
The group also facilitates in-person meetings between like-minded parents and children. Relatives of the Lawrences told HuffPost they found their activities “disgusting” and “heartbreaking for their children.”
Despite their near-constant stream of antisemitic invective, members of the Dissident Homeschool Network frequently share memes from the right-wing social media channel Libs of TikTok, which is run by an Orthodox Jew. The account has gained national notoriety for its demonization of LGBTQ people as “groomers,” as well as for its constant attacks on public education, a hot target for figures on the right who believe educators are indoctrinating children with “critical race theory” and “gender ideology.”
That account’s administrator Chaya Raichik, who has recently made her identity public, frequently advocates for parents to homeschool their children. Homeschooling has become a popular choice for conservatives, both for religious and ideological reasons, and lobbyists for the movement together with Republican lawmakers have made it easier for parents to homeschool their children with little to no oversight.
The “Dissident” group provides parents with instructions on how to teach Nazi material while avoiding scrutiny from the authorities. On the channel, Katja Lawrence frequently boasts about the size and strength of their Nazi parents’ movement: “There is a huge network of people like us.”