The Prince William County School Board hired an outside law firm Tuesday to defend Superintendent Steve Walts in a lawsuit filed by former school board Chair Ryan Sawyers.

Sawyers filed the suit against Walts and the school board July 13, according to county court records.

Sawyers is alleging that Walts made defamatory comments in a since-deleted social media video that Walts posted May 7 in defense of his Twitter use. Sawyers is seeking more than $2.35 million, claiming Walts’ comments “subjected him to underserved scorn, embarrassment, humiliation and contumely as a resident of Prince William County.” 

Before the video was removed, it had more than 29,000 views, according to the complaint.

Sawyers asked for damages in his complaint, arguing “Walts’ false and defamatory statements damaged Sawyers’ personal and professional reputation by alleging conduct that is reprehensible to him as a former school board chairman, businessperson, coach and father,” according to the complaint. 

While Walts never mentioned Sawyers by name in the video, he did reference “a former school board member.”

Current board Chair Babur Lateef declined to comment to InsideNoVa on the matter. He did note the division has insurance that covers legal representation when the school board or superintendent are sued.

The board spent more than six hours in closed session Tuesday to discuss Walts’ annual evaluation, along with the lawsuit.

The board didn't take any action Tuesday regarding Walts' employment contract. Lateef said the board plans to schedule a meeting in August to discuss goals for Walts after the evaluation. Usually after the evaluation, Walts informs the school board if he wants to extend his employment contract. 

Emily Sides covers Prince William County for InsideNoVa. Reach her at esides@insidenova.com.

(12) comments

Stoptheinsanity

It's time for the entire board to leave. Prince William County children deserve a lot more than this board is providing. Sawyers, Walts, and the rest need to go. Taxes need to go to education not frivolous law suits. This board has stolen from us and our children.

EdP

You did see where it said "former chairman"? Sawyers is doing this off his own volition. It would be nice if there was more detail on what the lawsuit contained...

EdP

Read the article a little more carefully; defamation. Ok. No further comments.

Bob1

I concur with your thoughts. The school board is so anal retentive that they do understand what our kids need. This guy Sawyers is a total idiot who does not deserve anything but to be kicked to the curb. Clean house and get some people in there that understand what a good education is and have Superintendent that knows about improving our schools.

PWCPSRetiree

Sawyers is a clown and a cancer on Prince William County. He abuses and diminishes any thing he touches.

icrazyhorse

I agree with you - this clown is wasting PWC taxpayer dollars. When he loses the lawsuit, I am hopeful PWC can recover our legal expenses defending this frivolous lawsuit.

LoudounLady

It's all converted by insurance no?

Harveybar99

I have had children in the PWC school system for the past 12+ years. Dr. Walts is the only one that has made the students included. Everywhere he goes, the kids welcome him and interact. They know that he is working and advocating form them. Such a shame that all this lawsuit business has gone too far. Has anyone on "The Boards" ever gotten feedback from the students?

citizen1

I have a 13 year old Daughter, Walts texts her at 11pm to make her feel included.

PWC resident since '69

You want the board gone? Vote them out...Va got rid of appointed school board members 30 years sgo.

Quit whining

S'ton

This site would be worth time if the comments had more insight & less vitriol. Seems to be the same regular/s who load up the insults.

Venting, no sweat--but the name-calling makes 'insidenova' like an elementary school playground where the regular teacher is away.

Could be why so few people comment here.

Citizen52

The school board will not act capriciously. They will have consulted regarding the regulations with the Human Resources Associate Superintendent. I really think that Dr. Walts has tried to do a good job but I admit I don’t know all of the details, nor should I.

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