After a legal battle, Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration agreed to release about 350 emails from an education tip line the administration instituted early in the governor’s term. According to media reports, many of the emails were duplicates and some of the emails contained positive feedback about teachers. Still, others included criticism of virtual learning, anger over mask mandates, and concern from one student over a feminist approach to Beowulf.
“A review of the 350 released records shows the majority do not address critical race theory or any other curriculum concern,” The Virginian-Pilot reported.
The AP reported, “The majority of emails expressed anger or frustration with teachers, administrators and school policies, particularly with COVID-19 protocols.”
Youngkin won the election on a platform focused on parents’ rights. Amid Youngkin’s criticism of Critical Race Theory, the announcement of the tip line led to concerns that teachers would be unfairly targeted by the community.
“When the Governor speaks of ‘parents’ rights’, he seems interested in speaking only to those who conveniently support his political beliefs,” Virginia Education Association President Dr. James Fedderman said in a press release at the time. “Now, barely two weeks into his administration, he has managed to sow chaos and division throughout the Commonwealth with his unconstitutional executive orders and poorly conceived ‘hotline’ designed to intimidate educators simply trying to do their jobs.”
With reports of potentially thousands of emails sent to the tip line, a coalition of media organizations sued the administration for access to the emails, which the administration argued were exempted from FOIA laws. Under an agreement, the coalition received emails sent to the tip line but not emails sent to the governor’s office, the AP said.
VPM reported Thursday that Youngkin’s administration quietly closed the tip line in September, but constituents can still contact the administration.
Delegate Tim Anderson (R-Virginia Beach) told The Virginia Star, “The Governor having a line that receives compliments and complaints allows the executive to address issues occurring in schools. This allows the executive to respond to issues on a school by school basis as needed. We need more of that in government. More information, not less, especially in the K-12 system is better for all stakeholders. Anyone resisting parental feedback to the governor has a motive other than ‘what’s in the best interest of the child.’”
Since the concern in January, the issue has faded in public discourse as the administration focused its education policy more on educational quality, changing transgender policy guidelines, and updating the history and social sciences curriculum standards.
Fedderman told The Star Thursday, “We know that there have been several emails that have been retrieved, but there is no evidence of anything punitive that has happened as a result of that. We continue to stand behind that it was just a tactic to pit parents against educators. And the huge level of inconsistencies that this administration continues to exhibit, it’s actually bringing educators and parents together in a manner that’s really strong and meaningful.”
The Star asked if he agreed that the email tip line situation didn’t turn out as badly as feared earlier in the year.
“I would say that, because, you know, at the peak of his [Youngkin’s] announcement, everyone was on edge about the return to school, about, everyone was on edge about requiring the vaccine, everyone was on edge about the inability to use effective technology, and everything was just compounded,” he said. “And, you know, that kind of took center stage as a way to say, ‘I gotcha,’ or, ‘Well, let me go and tattletale on Teacher X or Teacher Y.’ And really, educators were really just trying to navigate a huge level of uncertainty that they had never ever navigated before.”
Fedderman said his organization is now concerned about the transgender model policies that take effect at the end of November.
“I think we have just shifted from the tip line to disenfranchising our LGBTQ community and our transgender students. I think that’s the focus now,” he said. “We’ll continue to fight and deal and advocate for those students and those adults.”
Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. This article originally appeared in The Virginia Star. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of The Republican Standard. Republished with permission.