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Virginia Teacher Suspended for Pushing Russian Propaganda on Students

AP Photo/Marta Lavandier, File

A substitute teacher in Arlington, Virginia was reportedly suspended by a public school district for pushing Russian propaganda on students. 

The Washington Post reported that 65-year-old John Stanton, a former journalist, was suspended after the incident during his eighth grade Spanish class at Swanson Middle School on Friday. Stanton said in an interview with the Post that “he spoke about Russia and Ukraine for the first 10 minutes of a 90-minute class and that he hoped to offer students an opposing viewpoint that he said is rarely heard.”


Stanton reportedly told the students “to read as many news sources as possible — including Sputnik News, a Russian news agency that a 2017 report compiled by the FBI, CIA and NSA declared a ‘state-run propaganda machine.’ He said he also drew a map of Ukraine and marked areas where Russian forces had invaded.”

According to Washington, D.C.-based outlet FOX 5, Stanton was reportedly secretly recorded by one of the students, who then showed the recording to their parents.

“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,” Stanton told the Post. In an email to local outlet FOX 5, Stanton doubled-down, saying that he "understood Putin's logic" for the invasion and that it “made sense from a Russian national security point of view.” 

The upset parents penned an email to the school board regarding Stanton’s remarks to the students. The email, which was shared with the Post, says that Stanton “told students he supported Russia” and asked the class “whether anyone ‘hated Russia.’” The parents’ email pointed out that there was a Ukrainian student in the class where the incident occurred. They also wrote that his remarks amounted to “advocacy of political positions, and Russian propaganda.”


School officials sent a letter to Stanton informing him of his suspension. The letter stated that it was due to “comments he made to students during instructional hours regarding sensitive world events with Russia and Ukraine,” as Townhall has been covering. Stanton does not plan to petition for reinstatement.

In his response to the letter from Arlington school officials informing Stanton of his suspension, he told FOX 5 that “we live in a time of war propaganda from both sides which brings with it censorship of opinions deviating from the core message. It is at a fever pitch now. As an expert in information warfare and the author of many pieces on the subject I speak with some authority."

In a copy of Stanton’s resume, which the Post obtained, he listed that he writes for Pravda, “which was the Soviet Union’s chief propaganda platform.” A 2018 PBS NewsHour article identified Stanton as a Sputnik News “wire reporter” who covered the Pentagon. He was reportedly fired from that role for providing information about the platform to another entity.

Stanton told the Post that if he had the chance, he’d give the same speech to a class again. Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia wrote in an email to the Post that he would not discuss Stanton’s comments, but wrote that the school district “[pulls] from a pool of subs and they don’t have to have any background in the subject area they are subbing in.” 


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