An Arlington, VA public school suspended a substitute teacher after the man allegedly encouraged Russian propaganda.
The incident occurred at Swanson Middle School in Arlington on February 25 when John Stanton, 65, began an eighth-grade Spanish language class, The Washington Post reported. Stanton claimed that he wanted to offer students a different perspective on global events and was open about his position.
“I said, ‘Here’s what’s going on,'” Stanton explained as he detailed the first 10 minutes of a 90-minute class. Stanton presented the students with a map of Ukraine to detail the areas where Russian forces had invaded and recommended seeking information from alternative news outlets like Sputnik.
According to a report compiled in 2017, the FBI, CIA, and NSA have deemed Sputnik a “state-run propaganda machine,” that operates in collaboration with “a network of quasi-government trolls.”
Stanton went on to add that he told students, “I personally support the logic of Putin.” He believes that was the statement that crossed the line for the school administrators even though he claims to have meant, in his view, Putin “made a rational decision from his perception.”
Frank Bellavia, a representative for Arlington Public Schools, would not confirm the statements that Stanton made or the current relationship the substitute has with the district citing the personal matter of the situation.
Parents of the students in Stanton’s class were less hesitant to voice their concerns over the lesson. One parent emailed the school objecting to Stanton’s remarks, stating he “told students he supported Russia, asked whether anyone in the class ‘hated Russia,’ and complained about rising gas prices, presumably as an effect of the current crisis.”
They went on to call his remarks “advocacy of political positions, and Russian propaganda,” noting further that there was a Ukrainian student in the class and that the lesson was “wholly inappropriate.”
Stanton’s background includes work as an independent journalist contributing to CNN, ABC, PBS, and The Washington Post. However, his most notable experience is in his continued contributions to Pravda, a Russian news outlet known for being the primary outlet for Soviet propaganda during the Cold War.
Pravda published an op-ed for Stanton the day before he was issued his suspension. In it, he wrote the invasion of Ukraine was “great news for the West’s defense contractors who manufacture anti-tank/aircraft, small arms, landmines, grenades, artillery, radios; in short, billions in profits…there never seems to be a downside to their businesses.”
Stanton went on to say the United States sponsored a coup in Ukraine in 2014 before declaring, “self-censorship by Western media will only get more wicked.”
The letter of suspension from school officials detailed the reason as “an allegation of comments made to students during instructional hours regarding sensitive world events with Russia and Ukraine.”
Though the school permits suspended instructors to petition for reinstatement after five days, Stanton declared he has no intent to go back and only took the position for supplemental income. He did, however, cite that one student expressing interest in his lesson as justification to do it again.
“If I reached one student,” Stanton said, “and there was one student that told the kids, ‘Be quiet,’ because he wanted to learn…If for one student that is the case then I would do it again.”
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