The Department of Education in Ohio is investigating the openly antisemitic and racist Nazi homeschooling group with thousands of members being operated by a couple from Upper Sandusky, Ohio, an official at the department told VICE News.
On Sunday, VICE News and the Huffington Post reported that Logan and Katja Lawrence were the operators of the neo-Nazi Dissident Homeschool group which now boasts over 2,500 members on its Telegram channel, based on the research from anti-fascist researchers at the Anonymous Comrades Collective. The group openly advocates white supremacist ideologies with the aim to make sure the children they teach
“become wonderful Nazis.”
The Lawrences share their classroom schedules, homework assignments, and lesson plans with other parents in the group, the vast majority of which are infused with Nazi ideology or open praise for Adolf Hitler.
Katja Lawrence, 37, also shares examples of how her family embraces Nazi ideology, including baking a Fuhrer cake for Hitler’s birthday and sharing a recording of her children shouting “sieg heil.”
“I am outraged and saddened,” Stephanie Siddens, the interim superintendent of public instruction at the Department of Education told VICE News. “There is absolutely no place for hate-filled, divisive and hurtful instruction in Ohio’s schools, including our state’s home-schooling community. I emphatically and categorically denounce the racist, antisemitic and fascist ideology and materials being circulated.”
Under Ohio state laws, the Lawrences simply have to inform the local superintendent that they want to homeschool their children and agree to abide by certain broad conditions in order to legally keep their children out of public schools.
The Ohio Department of Education is now actively reviewing compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements as a result of the media reports, a spokesperson for the department told VICE News.
“If requirements are met, the district superintendent releases the student from required compulsory school attendance,” The Ohio Department of Education states on its website. “This excuses the student and family from school attendance requirements in state law.”
Parents simply have to agree to the following requirements in order to satisfy state laws on homeschooling: They must provide 900 hours of instruction per year, notify the superintendent every year, and provide an assessment of the students’ work.
“Parents or guardians who decide to homeschool their students are completely responsible for choosing the curriculum and course of study,” the department states on its website. “They select the curriculum and educational materials and take responsibility for educating their children. There is no state financial assistance for families who choose this option.”
The policy also states that parents cannot be compelled to teach a curriculum that is contrary to their sincerely-held religious beliefs, and this rule is why one expert believes the Lawrences are not breaking the law.
“I don’t know whether religious beliefs are part of why the Lawrences have embraced this fascist ideology. but to the extent that they are, the [Ohio] statutes would expressly protect that type of instruction,” Carmen Longoria-Green, a lawyer and board president of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, told VICE News.
Longoria Green also pointed out that the First Amendment protects the right of parents to talk about neo-Nazi ideology in front of their children.
The Ohio Department of Education does state, however, that parents who homeschool their children are required to teach a set number of topics as long as it doesn’t interfere with their religious beliefs, including language, reading, spelling, writing, geography, history of the United States and Ohio, government, math, science, health, physical education, fine arts (including music), first aid, safety, and fire prevention.
However, a review of the content shared by the Lawrences in their group indicates that their primary focus is on indoctrinating their children with the Nazi worldview. Katja Lawrence openly told the white supremacist podcast Achtung Amerikaner! last year that the reason she started the group was because she was “having a rough time finding Nazi-approved school material for [her] homeschool children.”
A number of the assignments shared by Katja Lawrence on Telegram include lessons that allow children practice writing by copying down quotes from Hitler and other Nazis. Earlier this month, in a lesson plan designed to mark Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Katja Lawrence shared an assignment that began: “As Adolf Hitler wrote…”
In a statement to VICE News, Gov. Mike DeWine condemned the group, and said “racism and antisemitism are vile and repugnant in all their forms.”
Rep, Bob Latta, who represents the district where the Lawrences live, called for the authorities to investigate the homeschool network. “Hatred and bigotry of all forms have absolutely no place in America,” Latta told VICE News. “Since representing Wyandot County beginning in 2007, I have never heard of such a group indoctrinating racist ideologies to children and families. The appropriate entities should fully investigate these reports.”
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who heads up the House Judiciary Committee, told VICE News via a spokesperson: “There’s no room for anything like this or Nazism in Ohio.”
Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur declined to comment because the Lawrences do not live in her district.
VICE News also contacted the Upper Sandusky Mayor Kyle McColly, the Wyandot County Commissioners, and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, but none of them responded to requests for comment.
Eric Landversicht, the superintendent in Wyandot County, where the Lawrences live, told VICE News in an email that he “cannot discuss the personally identifiable information of specific students due to state and federal privacy laws.”
However, Landversicht did point out that the policy of the Upper Sandusky Exempted Village School District Board of Education is to “maintain an education environment that is free from all forms of unlawful harassment, and the Board vigorously enforces its prohibition against discriminatory harassment based on Protected Classes.”
This policy, Landversicht said, applies both to events on school property “or at another location if such conduct occurs during an activity sponsored by the Board of Education.” And the only way that permission to home school a child would be revoked is if “substantial evidence of home school cessation” is provided.
In a letter sent to parents and staff in the school district, and reviewed by VICE News, Landversicht condemned the Dissident Homeschool Telegram group sharing of neo-Nazi resources: “The allegations are egregious and the District vehemently condemn any such resources.”
VICE News contacted all five members of the Upper Sandusky Exempted Village School District Board of Education for comment but received no response at the time of publication.
Longoria-Green, who was also homeschooled as a child, said that while such overtly neo-Nazi ideologies were not common in homeschooling curriculum, more watered down white supremacist views were widely embraced.
“I never heard that [Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.] was a revered figure who we should respect and look up to, I was actually taught that he was not a good person, and I did not figure out how wrong that was until I became an adult,” Longoria-Green said. “A lot of homeschoolers belong to a fundamentalist Christian ideology that embraces white supremacist beliefs, and a lot of homeschool curriculum has a more mild iteration of white supremacist ideologies built into the curriculum.”