ZIONSVILLE, Ind. — Hilary Heffernan is paying close attention to the school board race in Zionsville. Her kids attend Zionsville schools.
"What my kids learn on the day-to-day is important. Not just reading and writing, but I come from a place where diversity, equality, and inclusion are super important," Heffernan said.
Heffernan said a recent Facebook comment by Zionsville school board candidate Dr. Matt Keefer was a major red flag. In the comment, he is responding to someone who asked about his stance on indoctrination. The poster asked, "Would teaching students 'all Nazis are bad' be considered indoctrination?"
Keefer responded by saying, "All Nazis weren't 'bad' as you specify. They did horrible things. They were in a group frenzy in both cases you site." He goes on to write, "Who is to say if we were both there in the same place and time, that we wouldn't have done the same thing."
This comment shocked many people on the timeline.
"For somebody to say that Nazis were not all bad and historically was represented as one of the worst atrocities of all time, I just couldn't fathom," Heffernan said.
Marina Nazarov also lives in Zionsville. Her two girls graduated from the schools there. She is one of the few Jewish people who live in Zionsville. Her grandmother's sisters died during the Holocaust. She said there is no doubt in her mind all Nazis are bad.
"It's very difficult for us every time we hear that word. It's very difficult for us to deal with because it brings a lot of painful memories for our family and generations," Nazarov said.
Keefer's comments haven't discouraged all of his supporters. Some comments thanked him for listening to the community, being open, and clearly listing where he stands.
Heffernan hopes voters pay close attention to all the school board candidates' platforms.
"Anybody that thinks connectedness, community, and inclusivity is not important today and that needs to be the underpinnings of education. I feel like that right now is something all parents should be thinking very critically about," Heffernan said.
13News reached out to Keefer for an explanation but has not yet received a response. He later posted a statement on social media defending his comments.
We also reached out to other candidates to get their reactions.
Zionsville Community School Board member Michael Berg is also running for re-election and sent this statement to 13News:
"I was made aware of Dr. Keefer’s comments and was disturbed by them. Dr. Keefer has not been shy about making sweeping generalizations about many groups of people whom he disagrees with, yet he seeks a nuanced discussion of the actions of Nazis. Perhaps more concerning to me is his apparent desire to co-opt the suffering of Holocaust victims in an effort to claim a similar type of victimhood for himself over disagreements with COVID-19 mitigation strategies. I am concerned that Dr. Keefer and candidates like him are running for school board seats with motivations that are driven by their political beliefs. The ultimate responsibility of a school board member, and my reason for running, is to ensure that all students have access to a high-quality public education."
Candidate Sarah Sampson wrote:
"My opponent said indefensible disturbing words about Nazis. Any way you look at it, the Holocaust was horrific.
"His defense of his statement is hurtful to many and should disturb everyone. In regards to his statement, “Who is to say if we were both there in the same place and same time that we wouldn’t have done the same thing?” It is in times of chaos where our choices matter most, and where our true character shows."
Candidate Tim Hardt sent this statement to the newsroom:
"I've not spoken with Matt. I've publicly supported his opponent Sarah Sampson in that race and I continue to support Sarah. I'm sure you will speak with him directly but, to me, the comments are troubling. There is no need to equivocate when it comes to the Nazi party - they were evil. Further, there were good people who refused to join with the evil - some paying for their conviction with their freedom and their lives."