RICHMOND, Va. — In the first two weeks of his administration, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is working to deliver on a major campaign promise: involving parents in educational curriculum choices.
The governor announced on a conservative podcast that the Commonwealth has made an email tipline available for parents to send his office “reports and observations” about “divisive practices” within Virginia schools for his team to catalog and "root out."
Later in the interview, Youngkin pointed to critical race theory (CRT) as an example of an “inherently divisive teaching practice." Banning CRT was something he promised through an executive order he signed on his first day in office, despite there being no evidence that it is currently taught in Virginia public schools. CRT is an academic construct about the history of systemic racism developed during the 1970s and 1980s in response to what scholars viewed as a lack of racial progress following the civil rights legislation of the 1960s.
The governor's spokesperson Macaulay Porter called claims that the email address was set up to report teachers "misinformation."
"The governor’s office set up email@example.com as a resource for parents, teachers, and students to relay any questions or concerns," Porter said. "Governor Youngkin was elected to serve all Virginians and has utilized a customary constituent service, to hear from Virginians and solicit feedback."
Numerous teachers, education advocates and parents have already responded to Youngkin's callout.
"It's kind of putting teachers in an enemy position," former teacher Rebecca Anderson said of the tipline. "It seems like it's a way for people to tattle on teachers when teachers are basically doing their job and teaching the curriculum."
Anderson just retired after teaching in Prince William County Schools for 16 years.
The Virginia Education Association (VEA) blasted the tipline, accusing Youngkin of sowing chaos and division.
"A full and complete education must be rooted in facts and truth, even if some of those are difficult facts, and even if some of those are unfortunate truths about the history of Virginia and the United States," VEA President James J. Fedderman wrote in a statement Tuesday. "It seems it is easier for politicians to start a divisive culture war than deal head-on with the real problems facing our schools."
Fedderman went on to encourage parents and educators to use the tipline to call attention to "the amazing things going on in Virginia classrooms on a daily basis." Many joined in on social media using #ThankATeacher to share memories and kudos to influential teachers in their lives.
The tipline was also posted to a Northern Virginia subreddit with a post saying "Reddit... do your thing." There were more than 250 comments in 24 hours.
"I sent a note supporting teachers via higher salaries, better funding for education and a safe school with masks where needed (and decided locally) and no guns," Reddit user Thisam commented. "We cannot adjust our educational standards to appease the loudest parents. Those standards must be set by curriculum experts to optimize learning and maintain a minimum of par with the rest of the world."
Even, singer-songwriter, John Legend joined the conversation using his platform to push folks to "flood" the tiplines with complaints.
The tipline drew praise from some conservative corners, with Arlington-based think tank American Principles Project giving it some emoji applause. The group's tweet generated comments ranging from supportive to trolling.
Del. Wren Williams has also proposed legislation to the General Assembly that would mandate that teachers do not "teach or incorporate into any course or class any 'divisive concept.'" If H.B. 781 were to pass, teachers who "knowingly and intentionally" violate the terms of the bill could be charged with a Class 4 misdemeanor, punishable by up to $250, lose their teaching license or even be fired.