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Patriot Principal Extends Defamation Lawsuit to Include Second School Board Member

| October 11, 2016 | 0 Comments | Education
Potomac District School Board Representative Justin Wilk. Photo Courtesy of Prince William County Schools

Potomac District School Board Representative Justin Wilk. Photo Courtesy of Prince William County Schools

The law firm representing Patriot Principal Dr. Michael Bishop announced, Tuesday, it will continue to pursue defamation action against Prince William School Board Chairman, Ryan Sawyers.

School board member Justin Wilk has been named as a third defendant.

In the request to reopen the case, the plaintiff argues subsequent actions taken against Bishop by the defendants have adversely affected his employment at PWCS. They have named Wilk, representative of the Potomac District, as a coconspirator with Sawyers to have Bishop terminated.

Bishop and his attorneys are suing the individuals, not the school board or school system. They are seeking $500,000 in compensatory damages and another $350,000 in punitive damages.

Wilk is implicated for initiating a school board straw poll, which held up Bishop’s employment contract with Prince William County Schools.

The original lawsuit began in 2015. Bishop sued Sawyers and Morgan for defamation. Bishop was president of the Gainesville Haymarket Baseball League when Sawyers split with them to form a rival little league. The dispute began as a quarrel between two youth baseball leagues that quickly escalated.

Bishop filed a complaint of defamation on Feb. 20, 2015, alleging that Sawyers and Morgan brought unconfirmed issues with Bishop to the attention of Prince William County Schools, thus threatening his employment. Attorneys Jack L. White and Thomas Craig allege Sawyers and Morgan did this by spreading untrue and damaging statements about Bishop online and via an email campaign.

Sawyers has said he felt it was his right as a citizen to contact school board members and the school system regarding the actions of one of their employees.

Oct. 11, 2016, Fluet Huber +Hoang, PLLC filed a second amended complaint to address further actions taken against Bishop, which arguably have adversely affected his career with PWCS.

The law firm names Wilk as a defendant since he initiated an unpublicized, private straw poll be conducted June 6, 2016. The poll asked that the school board hold Bishop’s contract until PWCS can investigate emails Bishop might have sent, promoting GHBL while using his school email account.

Sawyers, realizing a conflict of interest, abstained from voting in the straw poll; however, it passed without his vote.

The deferral of Bishop’s contract became very unpopular with residents, causing a stir among Patriot parents many of whom rallied behind Bishop. Ultimately, Bishop’s contract was renewed at the next school board meeting, and some board members apologized for the poll.

Nonetheless, FH+H alleges Bishop’s career was adversely affected as a result of the poll, and that he incurred further legal fees in defending himself against school board’s actions.

FH+H is also alleging that Wilk and Sawyers both misused their elected positions in threatening Bishop’s career.

FH+H employs former Prince William School Board Chairman Milton Johns, Esq.; however, White and Craig claim Johns has abstained from participating in the Bishop case.

Sawyers and Wilk are Democrats, while Johns is a Republican. Wilk, a former PWCS teacher, was very critical of Johns, and upon joining the school board, led an effort to repeal the extended school day for teachers.

Wilk has appeared to move away from Sawyers politically, opposing various actions Sawyers has championed on the board.

A judge with the Prince William Circuit Court will decide if the lawsuit merits going further. The court hearing has been set for October 21 at 10 a.m.

© 2016, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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Category: Education

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