A teacher at Fred Lynn Middle School in Woodbridge has been placed on leave after appearing to tell his students during a Zoom class last week that he was present at the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
A student in the class took a video of the teacher, Benjamin Plummer, talking about his experience during the incident and shared the video on social media. The principal of the school then sent a letter to parents on Friday, Jan. 15, saying that Plummer had been placed on leave.
Prince William County Schools spokeswoman Diana Gulotta said Monday that the school system is aware of social media posts “connecting employee(s) to the protests and riots at the Capitol Building” and will investigate the allegations. She added that employees who engage in criminal activity could be fired.
“Prince William County Public Schools recognizes that employees have a right to engage in political activity on their personal time. However, employees may not engage in political activities during worktime, on school property, or using school resources. Employees who engage in criminal activity which calls into question their fitness as a role model for students may no longer qualify for employment with PWCS,” Gulotta said.
The video began making the rounds on social media on Monday. In it, Plummer can be heard telling students about his experience at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
“I was there. That's what I witnessed. That's what I saw. And I heard the media just blamed Trump supporters the whole time, and I knew that it was a setup,” Plummer told the students.
Plummer went on to tell them that the actions of Trump supporters who took part in the rally and riot were “incredibly peaceful” compared to the Black Lives Matter protests and riots that occurred over the summer, and that they did not “damage or hurt things.”
“We listened to three months in the summer of organizations destroying cities, burning cities, looting cities. What did the media say about these people? Oh, they're peaceful protesters,” Plummer said. “Now, you have Trump supporters that are incredibly peaceful. They all believe. They're all Christians. They believe in God. You know, they're not there to damage or hurt things.”
The attack on the U.S. Capitol was extremely violent, however. It resulted in at least five deaths, including that of a Capitol police officer who was died after being beaten by rioters.
Video footage and first-hand accounts of the Jan. 6 riots show rioters beating police officers, trashing offices and stealing things from the Capitol building. So far, more than 100 people who participated in attack have been arrested, and more arrests are expected.
It remains unclear whether Plummer entered the Capitol building on Jan. 6 or if he was outside. In a phone call Monday, Plummer refused to answer any questions about his participation in the riot or whether he was being investigated by the school system, saying only “no comment.”
There have been no reports so far of any arrests of Prince William County residents in connection with the Jan. 6 riot.
A parent of a student in the class who asked to remain anonymous said she received a call from Fred Lynn Middle School Principal Hamish Brewer last week regarding the incident. She said that Brewer had assured her that he had discussed the incident with Plummer and that Plummer had been placed on leave.
According to the letter sent by Brewer to parents last Friday, substitute teachers will be taking over for Plummer for the time being.
Attempts to reach Brewer for comment were not immediately successful Monday.
Reach Daniel Berti at email@example.com