Judge Dismisses Chairman’s Lawsuit Against PWCS Superintendent

| November 21, 2017 | 0 Comments | Education

Prince William Chairman At-large Ryan Sawyers delivers a presentation on the school board’s budget for 2017-18.

Tuesday, a judge dismissed the lawsuit filed by School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers against Superintendent Steven Walts back in June.

Sawyers sued over his refusal to release his predecessor Milt John’s Prince William County Schools emails.

“Dr. Walts raised concerns about potentially confidential student and staff information contained in those documents,” said Associate Superintendent for Communications and Technology Services Phil Kavits. “Dr. Walts declined to release the emails, arguing that only the full School Board had the power to order the division to release the messages. ”

Kavits said searching for and deleting private and sensitive information would require a “long and costly process.” Sawyers argued that he should have access to the emails as per his position as Chairman At-large.

The Prince William County Circuit Court effectively agreed with the Superintendent.

Judge Steven Smith dismissed the suit, ruling that under Virginia Code’s “Dillon’s rule,” no individual School Board Member has the authority to direct the Superintendent or staff to take specific actions without the approval that comes from a vote by the full board.

“Today’s ruling provides greater clarity for future Board-staff dealings,” Kavits said.

Sawyers had also sued Division Counsel Mary McGowan over her denial to release confidential emails in a similar request. In September, the board voted to censure Sawyers for “egregious” acts. School board members said was a response to his release of confidential exchanges.

UPDATE: Chairman Ryan Sawyers has provided a response that will be addressed in a subsequent article. In he he claims the judge’s ruling was overreaching and could have dangerous consequences in limiting the actions of board members.

© 2017, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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