Prince William County schools Superintendent Steve Walts temporarily suspended use of his Twitter account Thursday following news that the School Board has hired an independent outside firm to review complaints about messages to students and photos of Walts with students, including some in which his arm is around students.

"Effective immediately, with great disappointment, I am temporarily suspending the use of this account," Walts said in a video posted on Twitter, calling the complaints “a partisan and personal attack" during his contract renewal period.

"As part of their attacks, they've chosen to smear and slander me for purely political purposes," Walts said. "While I am not concerned about these attacks directed at me, I am significantly concerned they have chosen to bully and attack PWCS students online. Their actions reflect their character."

Walts said because the account is an official account, managed in part by the communications staff, no messages conducted through this account were private.  

Brentsville resident Guy Morgan, who filed the complaints in March and early April, told InsideNoVa on Thursday afternoon that he asked the school division to issue a retraction on Walts' message, because Morgan said he has not bullied children online. Morgan said the statement is false and defamatory. 

A statement by the school division late Wednesday confirmed the division had received three complaints and was taking action to investigate.

"In response to the filing of these complaints, early last month the School Board retained an independent outside firm to conduct an external review of Dr. Walts’ official twitter account to determine the validity of the allegations and provide the Board with a confidential report," according to the statement.

The Twitter account, @SuperPWCS, has 31,900 followers and has gained attention because it's the first place the school division posts closing information during winter months — sometimes with Walts singing the news.

Morgan told InsideNoVa he filed three complaints against Walts in late March and early April, including for communicating with students through direct, private messages on Twitter without their parent’s express permission and outside of regular school hours. 

A copy of the purported complaints provided to InsideNoVa notes that Walts is shown in photos on the Twitter account with his arm around the waist of students, mainly in group photos.

The school board’s statement Wednesday night said the board and staff cannot discuss personnel matters due to school board policy and regulation, as well as Virginia law. 

“Any complaints which are asserted against PWCS employees are taken seriously, regardless of their source, and are addressed under the procedures provided in applicable School Board policies and regulations,” according to PWCS’ statement.

Morgan told InsideNoVa on May 1 that he filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the school division requesting all of Walt’s direct messages sent from @SuperPWCS.

Morgan said division staff asked him to narrow his request, because they found at least 10,000 direct Twitter messages that had been sent from Walts’ account over the past 14 to 16 months. 

Morgan then randomly selected 10 student Twitter accounts that had previously publicly interacted with the Walts on Twitter, and requested direct messages between Walts and these students. 

He received direct messages between Walts and eight of the 10 students, and referenced the messages and other public Twitter posts in his complaint, Morgan said. 

In his complaint, Morgan referenced direct messages from the Walts account that were sent to students as late as 11:45 p.m.

Morgan said he did not think it was appropriate for Walts to hold a position of power and to speak privately to students at all times of the day through Twitter. 

“I would imagine parents don’t know he’s interacting with their kids,” he said.

In Morgan’s complaint, he said school employees, including Walts, should only email students from official school email accounts and include the student’s parents on any emails. Morgan also said in the complaint Walts has not intervened when inappropriate comments are made in reply to his tweets. 

Morgan also said Walts should be investigated for posting tweets about accepting cakes from students after he has called for school closings.

Morgan was one of the defendants in a lawsuit filed by Patriot High School Principal Michael Bishop in early 2015. The other defendants were Ryan Sawyers, a former school board chairman, and board member Justin Wilk. Bishop alleged there was a conspiracy to defame him and get him fired. He was never fired. 

A judge dismissed the claims against Wilk and Sawyers in March 2019, and Bishop filed a new lawsuit against just Morgan in September 2019. Trey Mayfield, Bishop’s attorney at Juris Day LLC in Fairfax, told InsideNoVa on Thursday the new lawsuit accuses Morgan of putting up a website to defame Bishop.

Morgan said Bishop's lawsuit is without merit.

The full statement from Prince William County School Board:

"The Prince William County School Board, its members and staff may not discuss individual personnel matters, per School Board policy and regulation, and related Virginia law.  Any complaints which are asserted against PWCS employees are taken seriously, regardless of their source, and are addressed under the procedures provided in applicable School Board policies and regulations.  The School Board is aware of the allegations recently asserted against the Division Superintendent. In response to the filing of these complaints, early last month the School Board retained an independent outside firm to conduct an external review of Dr. Walts’ official twitter account to determine the validity of the allegations and provide the Board with a confidential report."

The full statement from Superintendent Steve Walts:

Effective immediately, with great disappointment, I am temporarily suspending the use of this account.

Unfortunately, a former School Board Member, who was previously censured by the School Board for his behavior, along with his proxies, have chosen to launch a partisan and personal attack on me.

As part of their attacks, they have chosen to smear and slander me for purely political purposes.

While I am not concerned about these attacks directed at me, I am significantly concerned they have chosen to bully and attack PWCS students online.  Their actions reflect their character.

I will not allow children in PWCS to become political pawns for those who seek to damage me during my contract renewal period.

As our current School Board has chosen to review these claims, which I welcome, I have chosen to temporarily cease using this account.

It is important to understand this is an official account, not a personal account. It is managed in part by the Communication's Office, per PWCS regulation 910-1. No correspondence conducted through this account was private, and it is subject to The Freedom of Information Act (F-O-I-A).  

This communication channel has helped thousands of individuals with the assistance they needed.  This includes students in crisis, teachers who have expressed concerns, and parents seeking help.  It has been an important and useful resource, and I am closing it only until the smear campaign is brought into the light of day for what it is.

I am disappointed that due to the outrageous actions of a couple of individuals, we can no longer provide this critical outreach, especially during a global pandemic.  I hope this is resolved quickly.

However, I encourage you to follow @PWCSNews for information. Thanks for your continued support!

(28) comments

school

This is absolutely absurd and one of the reasons you do not see many males in education. If this were a female superintendent doing everything Walts has done you would see the public praising her for being accessible to students and building relationships. But because Walts is a man, he is branded a predator by some of his political adversaries and his name dragged through the mud. The double standard we have in our society is disgraceful and it is a shame that a male teacher cannot even hold a child’s hand in the school hallway without wondering who will twist it into something that can destroy a career.

Moonraker39

I have to agree somewhat with your comment; however, I also understand those who have expressed their concerns. It is a very different world today than when I went to school and parents and teachers were allies and not adversaries. Of course, we both want what is in the best interest of the school. The superintendent has to realize that, no matter how honorable his intentions and his nature are, he places himself in a vulnerable position by being so open with the students as well as their parents. It is sad that our society always seems to look for the worst in people.

Mickel

I disagree. If a female had some this, texted 14yr old boys at midnight, she would have been crucified. If any other teacher or staff had been texting some of these texts, they would have been immediately fired with no investigation at all.

citizen1

I am so happy this is happening. 1. This is an inappropriate line of communication with students. What if a teacher in PWCS has 10,000 personal texts with students? What would happen? 2. A direct line of communication to the Superintendent creates mistrust and destroys proper channels to handle problems. 3. Waltz celebrity status from his twitter is highly inappropriate. He is superintendent and he signs autographs, oblivious he is sending the wrong message to students. 4. There are photos of students visiting his house and bringing him rewards or treats. 5. His celebration of snow days on Twitter is inappropriate and a slap in the face to parents that have to work. My personal favorite is when’s student superimposed Waltz face on a pic of Jesus Christ. Waltz thanked the student for doing this.

It is about time the school board paid more attention to his twitter account.

sirena

Where have you been? Teachers are interacting with students on a daily basis via email, District platform messaging, Google Classrooms, Zoom AND other virtual media. What do you think your child will be doing in college? How is this different for the Superintendent? The level of sensitivity and outrage is absurd. Parents are FINALLY taking an interest in their children's electronic media as it relates to education. For once, a Superintendent is offering a refreshing perspective and a minority group is inclined to complain. "...a slap in the face to parents who have to work." LOLOLOLOL Do you hear yourself?

flightmaster110

I hope you keep the same energy for every other teacher in the county that has had direct messages with students. ESPECIALLY the female teachers because if you think it is not happening you are living under a rock. This is a political attack agents a position that is not political. There is a reason Ryan Sawyers was centured. If they are going to do this I want the board to audit all the social media accounts of the teachers of PWCS. This attack also has a sexist undertone to it.

citizen1

Yes this is political attack, but Steve Walts opened himself up to the attack. His twitter account is inappropriate. His interactions with students are inappropriate. The FOIA was for 10 out of 10,000 messages. This is the tip of the iceberg. They got him and Steve let it happen.

Soily

I do not know Superintendent Steve Walts. I probably wouldn't like him if I did. But these accusations seem bizarre and ridiculous. I skimmed through the linked Twitter account and saw nothing that comes close to the handsy type stuff we see with Joe Biden doing. I cannot believe what our country has come to, a bunch of whining offended yahoos walking around with chips on their shoulders looking for the slightest perceived offence to be outraged over. Unless there are inappropriate private communications between Walts and students leave the high-paid bureaucrat alone.

InsideCommenter

He definitely isn't doing of that handsy stuff Donald Trump is doing like barging in on beauty pageant contestants changing, and saying he would do his daughter like Trump has. He also doesn't talk about grabbing students by the pussy either. Nor does he have 25 credible assault allegations.

yellowz51

This is another example of the idiot parents that live in Prince William county and the reason that people avoid living here if they can afford to live elsewhere. Dr. Steven Walts is probably one of the best Superintendents that this county has ever had. This investigation in a complete waste of taxpayer money!

Citizen52

Times have changed. When Walts started working, administrators and teachers could have more of a direct interaction with families, including students; however, I also understand the father’s concerns. I think Dr. Walts has good intentions and hope that this investigation clears him.

informedparent

The complainer, Guy Morgan, is a notorious agitator. See Bishop v. Morgan, where he defamed the Patriot High School's Principal. Anyone taking his words seriously is wasting his time. Dr. Walts is loved by the students and not because of inappropriate touching or communication but because giving them hope and encouragement to excel.

sirena

Thank you for sharing this message. I am not surprised in the least. Here is someone who is sitting at home due to COVID19 and his Narcissistic Personality Disorder is at a full time raging high. "Someone has to pay for my unhappiness!"

Planetearth

This Covid 19 has everyone bored. The independent firm will find him as the best superintendent PWC has seen. I am a parent and LOVE his Twitter account. He is a nice human being and many of us are not used that. I think the parents complaining are jealous of him and mad that their kids like him more. And his daughter is a student and friends with the other students coming over. Stop implying otherwise. Please get a life and complain about real serious issues. Shame on you.

Matt Murdock

An investigation is warranted if he had inappropriate contact with students. There are many violations of the law and PWCS policies occurring during the Stay At Home Order. Teachers and students in direct contact at each other’s homes during the lockdown which is a violation of the law, these type of photos are being posted on Twitter and other social media platforms. As well as photos as screenshots of students in Zoom classrooms with their personal information available. These actions are a violation of FERPA, CIPA, PII, etc. Plus school officials are using personal accounts vice “official” accounts which show some individuals in other activities that are not compliant with PWCS policies.

PJC

You should be able to give a hug and all it is - is a hug. When I was in school, teachers gave hugs and it was no big deal. I get hugs at work, and it's no big deal. If someone did something inappropriate, then I would say something. A hug could make someone feel better if they are upset, or it could be a congratulations ex:you got a good grade; you got accepted into a college. Stop making all hugs "dirty".

Beachmom4

The person filing those complaints has a LONG history with PWCS that have to do with his own personal business interests. Search his name you will see what his real motives are!

lauren14

hello, I am a current pwcs student. as students, we love dr. walts, the interactions on his *public* twitter account are entertaining and fun. when he visited my school everyone in the cafeteria applauded him. when was the last time a faculty member (outside of a familiar teacher) had such an engaging and positive relation with students? students from other pwcs schools enjoy creating and sharing memes with each other which is common "gen z humor" and is applied to many other accounts and figures.

if by chance a student is uncomfortable, they have full accessibility to block and report any account they need to.

in conclusion, dr. walts has a harmless twitter account that he uses in a new and creative way to positively interact with the pwcs student population. thank you for reading and stay safe.

CharlieGabriel

You seem like a sensible, level-headed young lady. Thank you for posting your perspective.

AxeToGrind

Guy Morgan has an axe to grind. He tried to get Steve Walts pulled into the defamation lawsuit against him https://www.insidenova.com/news/education/prince_william/lawsuit-between-school-officials-could-see-three-new-defendants/article_3578c77c-343b-11e8-bdb4-736f97688a52.html

CharlieGabriel

What a waste of taxpayer dollars. I hope the School Board can recover the costs incurred dealing with this idiotic lawsuit.

Matt Murdock

Here is the issue: PWSC Regulation ion503.02-1 HUMAN RESOURCES Page 3

April 11, 2018

3. Employees may use electronic communications with students for legitimate purposes connected to school programs or services, including participation in athletics and extracurricular activities. However, employees should communicate with students for such purposes using official PWCS email accounts, except in emergency or unusual situations. Any employee initiated communications must be directly related to a school program or activity, and shall be group communications with parents/guardians included in the same. Except as provided herein, employees shall not communicate with students using cell phone and other personal electronic forms of communication, including, but not limited to, Facebook, Snapchat, and texting. Employees should not provide students with access or invitations to their own personal social media sites, such as Facebook. Nor should employees access the personal social media sites of students.

4. Employees shall not cause any student to miss instructional time or school sponsored activities for non-educational purposes.

AxeToGrind

His statement says it's not a personal account.

Matt Murdock

Read the 3 official complaints against him. Has nothing to do with an official or unofficial account. He is accused of sending private messages to a 14 year old female student in the middle of the night after she contacted him. Very poor judgment for a school official and an apparent violation of PWCS policies according to the complaints. There are several policies in the PWCS system besides the one listed above that outlines proper conduct between school officials and students.

Dontlie2020

He should have been suspended I watched this guy hit a person on a motorcycle in the school vehicle with his daughter in the car and cover it up this happend about 2 years ago I have the proof and pictures as I was working for the car dealership his daughter came in to use the bathroom at crying it happened right in front of us he needs to go ! Bet half of y’all didn’t even know that if any

Salda0712

It's quite obvious that Morgan has issues, and a looong history of starting frivolous lawsuits, that also waste the courts time and taxpayers money. I would think that if the school board saw his history, that they would recognize the complaint, but take it with a grain of salt. And maybe they should recommend that Morgan send his children elsewhere, like a private school or other county if he has issues with EVERYTHING, and continues to waste taxpayers money, when the schools are already receiving less funds than requested. And posting pics of snow days is a slap in the face to people who have to work LMAO!? What a petty ridiculous person. I am a front line Healthcare worker. I am required to work in blizzards or natural disasters. If you are an essential employee, and are offended that you have to work on snow days, then maybe you should consider another job/career.

icrazyhorse

I smell disruptive Republicans at work. As we move closer to November 3 I expect more personal attacks by trump Republicans. This is why I will vote straight Democratic.

Citizen52

Irrelevant comment since the people behind this were Democrats.

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