Substitute Teacher Suspended for Telling Students He Supports Putin's Logic

A Virginia substitute teacher was suspended from the Arlington Public Schools district after saying he understood and approved of Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to attack Ukraine.

The teacher, 65-year-old John Stanton, made the comments at a Swanson Middle School Spanish class, telling students to read Russian propaganda to get a different viewpoint on the invasion, according to The Washington Post.

Many people on both sides of the nation's partisan divide have been united in their opinion that Putin's invasion was unprovoked and that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is a heroic figure. But Stanton's suspension shows that some Americans have praised the Russian president. Pro-Putin sentiment among Americans has mostly popped up in far-right social media spaces, with right-wing commentators like Joe Oltmann making comments in support of Russia, The New York Times reported.

In an interview with the Post, Stanton said he told students, "I personally support the logic of Putin," adding that what he meant was that "[Putin] made a rational decision from his perception."

He also told the students to read news sources like the state-run Sputnik News, which has been accused of pushing Russian propaganda. Russian news sources like these are subject to censorship from Roskomnadzor, a media watchdog that has told outlets not to use terms like "assault," "invasion" or "declaration of war" when describing the conflict, Newsweek reported.

Stanton's résumé shows he has written for Sputnik as well as Pravda, the main propaganda source for Russia's Communist Party, according to WTTG-TV.

The lesson received strong backlash from parents. One student's parents wrote a letter to the school board, which was obtained by the Post. It called Stanton's comments "wholly inappropriate" and said it was essentially "advocacy of political positions and Russian propaganda."

The letter also noted there was a Ukrainian student in the class.

The school board then wrote a letter to Stanton detailing his suspension. According to the letter, obtained by WTTG, he has five days to request a "Petition for Reinstatement." However, in a response to the board's letter, Stanton wrote, "It is pointless to petition."

"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," he continued in the letter, also obtained by WTTG. "As an expert in information warfare and the author of many pieces on the subject I speak with some authority."

Arlington Public Schools did not immediately respond to Newsweek's request for comment.

Update 03/03/22 11:40 a.m. ET: This story was updated to add more information and background.

Vladimir Putin, Moscow, Russia
A Virginia teacher was suspended after he showed support for Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine. Above, Putin attends his New Year address to Russians in central Moscow on December 31, 2017. Photo by Alexey Nikolsky/AFP via Getty Images