A U.S. District Court judge has thrown out former Prince William County School Board Chair Ryan Sawyers’ lawsuit against the current school board and Patriot High School principal Michael Bishop.
Filed in June 2022, Sawyers claimed that Bishop violated his First Amendment rights when Patriot’s Twitter account blocked him. Sawyers’ suit argued that the Twitter account is a governance tool, giving him First Amendment standing and that the school board, which is ultimately the governing body for all of the county’s public schools, should be held liable as well.
But last week, U.S. District Court Judge Claude Hilton ordered that Sawyers’ suit be removed from the Eastern District of Virginia court docket.
As of Wednesday, no opinion was issued in the case, but Bishop’s attorneys argued that the @PioneersPHS Twitter account is not a public forum.
The account in question has since been made private as the high school officially uses another handle. But the problems between Sawyers and Bishop go back even further than this current suit. Sawyers won election to the school board chair post in 2015 but resigned in the midst of a 2018 recall effort. According to Sawyers, Bishop was investigated for misconduct during Sawyers’ tenure. Bishop then sued Sawyers for defamation, but that suit was dismissed and withdrawn in 2019.
Since leaving the school board, Sawyers has made regular appearances in courthouses around the region. He also sued former Prince William County Schools Superintendent Steven Walts in Prince William Circuit Court for defamation when Walts posted a video to Twitter saying that Sawyers was trying to “bully and attack PWCS students online” because Sawyers sought access to private Twitter messages between Walts and students. Last year, a judge ruled that that case could move forward to trial but is still pending.