By Liz Brazile
We’re just three months into 2018 and already, several teachers across the U.S. have made it into the news for their racist behavior and commentary.
A Florida teacher made it to headlines Saturday after HuffPost published a report linking her to a white nationalist podcast. Crystal River Middle School social studies teacher, Dayanna Volitich, was discovered to have been secretly hosting “Unapologetic”, a podcast featuring discussions on white supremacist ideology, under the pseudonym “Tiana Dalichov”.
In the latest episode of “Unapologetic” released on February 26, 25-year-old Dalichov pontificates with fellow white nationalist guest, Lana Lokteff. Lokteff is employed by alt-right multimedia outlet, Red Ice TV, which was recently flagged by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.
“Well that’s why we need more people on our side who would be committed to being teachers. They don’t have to be vocal about their views but get in there—be more covert and just start taking over those places,” Lokteff says around the 55-second mark. “So if we could have more teachers in those positions that would be great. And you know what, I do hear from teachers all the time—people that are closet Red Ice listeners that support what we do and I think that’s fantastic.”
Dalichov responds by telling Lokteff that she is “absolutely one of them”. Dalichov goes on to liken her experience as a white supremacist educator to being on a “bloody battlefield”. She gives anecdotes about giving a “dog and pony show” to administrators during evaluations but being more open about her views when it’s just her and her students. Around the 10-minute mark, the teacher airs her support of eugenics, claiming there is scientific proof that certain races are more intelligent than others.
As if Dalichov’s belief in eugenics wasn’t preposterous enough, her comments on the subject were preceded by criticisms of schools funding technology in the classroom instead of making sure students are fed. During this particular rant, Dalichov cites Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which theorizes that humans must have their most primal needs satisfied before they can self-actualize. It must not have occurred to her that disparities in educational outcomes can be attributed to kids of different ethnicities experiencing collective differences in economic privilege.
“Dalichov” was very active on Twitter before deleting her account amid her true identity coming into question. Screenshot courtesy of HuffPost.
After HuffPost found matches between “Dalichov” and Volitich’s occupations, home cities, ages, as well as images of similar looking women wearing the same set of earrings posted on both women’s social media accounts. On Sunday, the assistant superintendent of Citrus County Schools confirmed to WFLA Channel 8 that Dalichov and Volitich were the same person and that she is on leave pending an investigation. Volitich released a statement in which she claims her stint as Dalichov was meant to be satirical.
As shocking as Volitich’s behavior may be, it is not unique. Multiple stories of teachers making blatantly racist comments have been published since 2018 commenced.
On January 10, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported allegations that a white middle school teacher told a 13-year-old black student that his classmates would lynch him if he didn’t focus better on his schoolwork. It’s worth noting that other incidents of racism have surfaced within the same predominantly white school district since then, including hateful Snapchat messages sent to black students and a white high school student caught on video calling black people “good for nothing, tree-swinging, watermelon-eating, chicken finger-licking n****** who need to get some jobs.”
AL.com reported on January 22 that an Alabama high school teacher was put on paid administrative leave after telling a black student listening to Tupac to “turn the n***** tunes off”. The student was playing “Dear Mama” during the teacher’s food and nutrition class, in accordance with her classroom policy of allowing students to play music while they work.
All of these incidents raise questions as to why these individuals are bold enough to put their bigotry on full display. What’s even more troubling, though, is knowing even more educators are harboring this same hate, but knowing most won’t manifest it verbally. Instead, they’ll let their grading choices, gratuitous disciplinary action, and other covert measures of discrimination do the talking for them. But for the emboldened few, their verbal attacks could escalate to physical violence.
Florida lawmakers voted to pass a bill that gives superintendents and sheriffs the discretion to arm teachers, despite gun control advocates’ objection. We already have trained law enforcement professionals inappropriately discharging their weapons. If actual police officers are shooting people because they blinked too fast, why should we expect teachers to exercise good judgment when it comes to wielding firearms in classrooms? And with the school-to-prison pipeline flourishing and racial profiling abound, black students especially will be at risk of being shot by their teachers.
Stay informed about what your state legislators are up to and resist attempts to turn facilities that should be safe spaces for children into a battlefield. Beyond opening the door for teachers to act upon their racial bias, arming teachers leaves room for accidental shootings, stolen weapons, stray bullets, and just outright isn’t practical in the event that a shooter with a semi-automatic weapon and armor launches an attack.
The American education system and those who uphold it are exceedingly problematic as it is. We don’t need gat-toting, pistol-holding, racist teachers to exacerbate that.