1CHARLESTON — The West Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union accused the state attorney general of blocking critics on social media in violation of the First Amendment.

The state chapter said in a news release it sent notices last week to Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and eight others along with the Parkersburg Police Department.

Last July a federal appeals court ruled that the daily writings of President Donald Trump on Twitter were official in nature and that he violated the First Amendment whenever he blocked a critic to silence a viewpoint. And in January 2019 another federal appeals court found a Virginia politician violated the First Amendment rights of one of her constituents by blocking him from a Facebook page.

“It’s unacceptable for public officials to deny their constituents access because of a differing viewpoint,’’ ACLU West Virginia legal director Loree Stark said in the statement. “And it is just as unconstitutional to bar a constituent from engaging on an official social media account because they disagree with you as it is to ban someone from a town hall event.’’

A Morrisey spokesman and Parkersburg’s police chief didn’t immediately return messages requesting comment.

Others in the ACLU notice were five state lawmakers, two county commissioners and a county school board member.



Paine retiring

2CHARLESTON — West Virginia schools superintendent Steven Paine has announced he is retiring later this year to tend to a family member with serious medical issues.

Paine, who joined the West Virginia Department of Education in 2003, will leave the post by the end of June or sooner depending on when his replacement is chosen.

“It has been an honor and my privilege to serve this state, the Governor, and the students of West Virginia, “he said in a statement. “Unfortunately, a member of my family is facing a health crisis and I want to be fully present for my family.’’

The retirement announcement comes after serious upheaval in the state’s education system, with teachers holding walk-outs over the last two years.

In 2018, educators went on strike for nine-days over raises and health insurance, sparking similar movements in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, Colorado, Washington state, and Los Angeles. Last February, they launched a successful two-day walkout over a wide-ranging bill that tied a pay raise to the formation of charter schools.

Then the GOP-controlled legislature, in a summertime special session that undercut the impact of a third strike, passed a bill to legalize charters as Republican leadership cited the school system’s poor performance on national testing scores.

Paine also drew criticism last year when the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported he downplayed a rise in the number of homeless students as “not a significant increase.’’ Later, in a statement, Paine said he “in no way intended to convey that the data was not significant`` but said his comments were taken out of context.

Paine was the state’s deputy schools superintendent before taking on the top role between 2005 and 2011. He returned as superintendent in 2017 and is the state’s 31st superintendent of schools.

“It is with regret that I accept Dr. Paine’s resignation,’’ said State Board of Education President Dave Perry, adding that “his leadership will be deeply missed.”

The education board is moving to find a new superintendent as Paine works though his remaining time, the statement said.

“I have grown children, one grandchild who I adore, and hopes for more grandchildren in the future. It is time for me to dedicate myself to spending time with my family,’’ Paine said in the statement.

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