A substitute teacher in Virginia has been removed from the classroom after expressing support for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine, according to district authorities.
The Washington Post reported that John Stanton, 65, was suspended by Arlington Public Schools on Tuesday as a result of statements he made in an eighth-grade Spanish class at Swanson Middle School on Friday.
Stanton, a former journalist who worked for Russia’s state-owned Sputnik News, told the newspaper on Tuesday that he gave his opinion during the first ten minutes of the 90-minute session, pushing pupils to read as many different news sources as possible.
“I said, ‘Here’s what’s going on,’” Stanton recalled. “The statement I think that got me was I said, ‘I personally support the logic of Putin,’ and what I meant by that is, he made a rational decision from his perception.”
After declining to comment on Stanton’s job situation on Tuesday, Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia confirmed to The Post on Thursday that Stanton will no longer serve as a substitute for the district.
“He has been removed from the pool of subs that we pull from, at least for the remainder of the year,” Bellavia said during a brief interview. “At this point, it’s an HR thing — there’s not much more I can say.”
Bellavia declined to comment on Stanton’s comments other than to confirm the truth of the now-suspended teacher’s testimony from earlier this week.
According to the Washington Post, Stanton advised students to read publications such as Sputnik News, where he worked as a correspondent in the nation’s capital from 2016 to 2018. According to PBS.org, he was sacked by Sputnik News for providing information on the news agency to a third-party customer.
The customer, Stanton told the Washington Post, was a US government intelligence organization, but he didn’t specify. Sputnik News was labeled as part of Russia’s “state-run propaganda machine” in a 2017 US intelligence analysis, according to the newspaper.
Stanton continues to write for publications such as Pravda, a Russian newspaper that used to be the official publication of the Soviet Union.
Last month, Stanton wrote a commentary for Pravda, stating that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was “great news” for Western armament firms, who stand to benefit billions. He also brought up the continuous “media war” that has accompanied the fight.
“Who to believe?” On February 28, Stanton wrote. “It is getting tougher as alternate news sites like Sputnik News and RT News are being censored by the West. Any support aired by anyone on the West for the Russian position gets mauled and derided by pro-West pundits.”
Stanton further suggested that Western media outlets’ “self-censorship” will only “get more wicked,” and that the only way ahead is to read as much Russian and Western news as possible.
“Relying on one source is not intelligent,” Stanton wrote.
Stanton was able to seek for reinstatement in five days, but he informed the Washington Post that he would not be doing so. Bellavia stated Thursday that he had passed a background check like all other district workers and had been working as a substitute for three years.
The spokeswoman for the district said he wasn’t sure how the issue of Russia came up at the start of a Spanish session.
However, following Stanton’s uninvited view on the conflict, parents of one kid contacted school officials, according to an email acquired by the Washington Post, which noted that a Ukrainian student was also in his classroom.
“[Stanton] told students he supported Russia, asked whether anyone ‘hated Russia’ and complained about rising gas prices, presumably as an effect of the current crisis,” the email read.
Meanwhile, Stanton told the Washington Post that he had no regrets.
“If I reached one student — and there was one student that told the kids ‘Be quiet,’ because he wanted to learn,” Stanton said. “If for one student that is the case, then I would do it again.”