In her first year as a teacher, Dayanna Volitich taught under the watchful eye of more experienced educators.
The school sought to make sure the novice teacher met standards set by the state of Florida. But the school’s surveillance, she said, also made it hard for her to expose her students to an array of white-nationalist views.
“I’m pretty hyper aware that [administrators and colleagues] will be watching. They’ll be listening, and so I’m getting a little more underhanded,” she said on the Unapologetic Podcast, a white-nationalist show she produced in her free time.
During monitoring sessions, she’d engage in a “dog-and-pony show” for her bosses.
“I was able to anticipate when they would be there to evaluate, and so I did what I was supposed to do. I danced like a little puppet, and I waited until they were gone,” she said in the episode, which aired in late February.
For more than a year, Volitich has been leading a double life.
She is a popular white-nationalist podcaster known as Tiana Dalichov who espouses anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and believes that Muslims should be eradicated from the earth, according to HuffPost. She’s defended and praised neo-Nazis and white nationalists such as Arthur Jones, Patrick Casey and former KKK grand wizard David Duke. She says she believes that science has proven that certain races are simply smarter than others and decried training about implicit bias in classrooms as “bulls—.”
And she is also a social studies teacher at Crystal River Middle School about 80 miles north of Tampa — one who has said it’s her duty to expose her students to her version of the truth.
She said she hoped that other like-minded people would infiltrate public schools and do the same thing.
Her double life came crashing down this weekend after she was outed in a HuffPost piece. The news organization identified Volitich as the person behind the Dalichov pseudonym, with its 1,400 Twitter followers and podcast. She did not respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.
Suddenly exposed, she was suspended after the Citrus County School District became “aware of a concerning podcast,” the district said in a statement on Facebook.
Volitich could not be reached for comment. A message sent to her school email address was returned as undeliverable.
WFLA News Channel 8 published a statement reportedly from Volitich in which she claims that the words of her alter ego were satire meant to drum up listeners for her podcast and Twitter followers, and that she never injected her personal beliefs into the curriculum:
None of the statements released about my being a white nationalist or white supremacist have any truth to them, nor are my political beliefs injected into my teaching of social studies curriculum. While operating under the Russian pseudonym ‘Tiana Dalichov’ on social media and the Unapologetic Podcast, I employed political satire and exaggeration, mainly to the end of attracting listeners and followers, and generating conversation about the content discussed between myself and my guests.
The Washington Post could not independently confirm the statement.
One of the last messages from the Dalichov Twitter handle came as HuffPost was about to publish its damning article. She tweeted that she “might disappear for a while,” and she set the account to private. Then she scrubbed her podcast from its site.
By Monday morning, the Twitter account was gone.
In the last year, emboldened white nationalists and neo-Nazis have marched through U.S. streets and grabbed national headlines.
The rest of the country has become acutely aware that the people who march with tiki torches on the weekend have day jobs like the rest of us. At times, strangers on Twitter have outed people who attended white-nationalist rallies. The campaigns have subjected white nationalists to public scorn and cost some their jobs, including one guy who was fired from his job as a hot dog cook.
But Volitich went further than attending a rally or merely identifying as a white nationalist, reports say: In audio clips, she painted herself as a proselytizer.
By her own admission, she was a subversive presence who sought to not-so-subtly indoctrinate students assigned to her classes with her world view. And she bragged about her ability to do so without her employers or colleagues finding out.
In Volitich’s education-centered conversation with Lokteff, the women talked about how imperative it was for people who shared their views to become educators.
“We need more people on our side who would be committed to being teachers — they don’t need to be vocal about their views but get in there, be more covert and just start taking over those places,” Lokteff said. “That’s what the left did. … Well, we have to take those institutions back.”
Volitich said she agreed, although she conceded her double life had difficult moments.
“As a teacher, it’s a tough place to be. It’s not nearly as bloody as a battlefield, but it’s pretty darn close,” she said. “You’re on a very steep hill and it’s hard to work your way to the top of it when you’re virtually alone. It’s still difficult to be fighting that battle.”
But she said she had some victories, at the school where 90 percent of students identify as white, according HuffPost. When alarmed parents approached the principal saying their students’ teacher was injecting political bias into a public school curriculum, Volitich said she had a simple solution: She lied and escaped with her job.
But the ruse would not endure, and Volitich became the latest educator to face accusations of being a white nationalist.
Last year an assistant principal at a Texas Middle School was fired when he wrote a children’s book that featured Pepe the frog, a character that has been adopted as a mascot of the alt-right — a small, far-right movement that seeks a whites-only state — and associated with white nationalism.
The book’s plot makes allusions to incendiary race and class struggles, political issues jammed into an innocuous-sounding story about two animals trying to save their farm. The antagonist is a bearded alligator named Alkah. Pepe’s sidekick is a cartoon centipede that also happens to share a name people on a Donald Trump-themed Reddit board use to refer to each other.
In June, a New Orleans principal was fired from his job after a video showed him at a protest against the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He initially said he visited the protest as a student of history, but the video showed him wearing rings associated with the Nazi movement and white nationalism.
It’s unclear if those educators tried to expose those beliefs to the children in their care.
According to HuffPost, Volitich made a game of it.
She wouldn’t tell inquiring students who she was voting for in the 2016 presidential election, for fear that she’d be fired, the news organization reported. But she turned their curiosity into a learning exercise, promising to reward the class if they could deduce her vote from statements she made in class.
Those students, she said, became de facto accomplices to her plans to convince her colleagues and bosses that she didn’t have ulterior motives.
“I told the kids, I said when (observers) are in there, I’m going to be different than how they are used to,” she said on one podcast. “The first time it happened they were like ‘What the hell is happening right now, because I totally turned into a different teacher. I put on my nice voice.”
Volitich is not the first person to claim white nationalist statements were satire.
Chris Cantwell, who gained national notoriety during the violent Charlottesville rallies, once described himself in a dating profile as not being a fascist but instead “a podcaster ‘specializing in controversial political satire.’”