Prince William schools reject FOIA request for superintendent’s Twitter messages

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

Prince William County Public Schools rejected a request by the Board of County Supervisors to provide more than 20,000 private messages posted on Twitter, most between schools Superintendent Steve Walts and students.

After a Freedom of Information Act request from a county resident revealed a handful of the messages from Walts account, @SuperPWCS, county supervisors made a FOIA request May 13 for the past 18 months of messages.

Tanisha S. Holland, equity and compliance officer for the school division’s human resources department, said in a response Wednesday that the messages were either protected by state code or withheld as part of the school division’s internal investigation.

“The requested material consists of 2,060 conversations comprised of 20,268 messages to and from the division superintendent,” Holland said. “All such messages, regardless of form or format, constitute correspondence of the division superintendent and, as such, are exempt from mandatory disclosure under 2.2-3705.7(2) of FOIA.”

Holland was referencing an exemption in the code for “working papers and correspondence” of the chief executive officer of any political subdivision.

She also said most of the messages relate to identifiable PWCS students and “also constitute scholastic records that are exempt from disclosure.”

On May 12, the school division hired an outside law firm, Hunton Andrews Kurth, to conduct an independent investigation of the allegations.

“The release of those messages at this time may interfere with the investigation,” Holland said. “Once that investigation is completed, however, the school board may determine whether further disclosures on this subject matter are permissible and appropriate.”

In a statement on Twitter on May 7, Walts called the claims against him “a partisan and personal attack” during his contract renewal period. The superintendent has since deleted the statement.

Brentsville resident Guy Morgan filed the initial complaints regarding the Twitter account in March and early April.

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 told InsideNoVa last month.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

 

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