VIRGINIA, USA — Editor's Note: All emails depicted below are published as they were written.
Newly released documents reveal the type of issues sent to a controversial tip line created by Gov. Glenn Youngkin to “root out” topics deemed divisive in Virginia schools.
The administration turned over 350 documents of emails from community members throughout Virginia between January and May. Many of the documents were either duplicates of previous emails or repeated messages because they were either forwarded to another person or received a reply.
They cover a range of topics including special education needs, mask protocol complaints, indoctrination concerns and compliments to educators. Most of the tips came from Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Henrico and Chesterfield Counties.
WUSA9 reviewed the documents and found no widespread reports or concerns that show observations of critical race theory being taught in schools.
WUSA9 and several other news outlets challenged the Youngkin administration over his decision to refuse public records requests to obtain copies of emails to the tip line earlier this year. The agencies won the lawsuit which stated Youngkin violated state public records law when he denied requests based on the reason the emails were “working papers and correspondence” of the office.
“We are pleased that the attorney general’s settlement with the representatives of several media outlets preserves the principle that a constituent’s communication with a Governor is protected under the law and exempt from FOIA,” Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said in a statement. “The Governor wants constituents to be able to reach out to him without fear that their communications will not be kept confidential.”
The emails are only a small sample of the overall number of tips submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Youngkin staff still has not provided the exact number of tips received this year.
For unknown reasons, the same tip line may no longer be active or is experiencing a couple of technical issues. When you send an email, a message returns saying, "Mail delivery failed." State officials have not responded to questions about the status of the account.
Earlier this year, critics including Democrats, parents and teachers said the tip line would create more division.
“It's kind of putting teachers in an enemy position," former teacher Rebecca Anderson told WUSA9. "It seems like it's a way for people to tattle on teachers when teachers are basically doing their job and teaching the curriculum."
Youngkin wanted parents to send his office “reports and observations” about “divisive practices” within Virginia schools, which include critical race theory (CRT), although it has never been taught in public school classrooms.
His campaign for office focused on education and a promise to give parents more say in school curriculums.
A chunk of email correspondence came from special education advocate Kandise Lucas of Richmond.
She was mentioned in at least 43 emails, but Lucas told WUSA9 she likely sent hundreds of emails on several issues. Lucas accused school systems of civil rights violations by school divisions and the Virginia Department of Education against students of color, students with disabilities and students who speak English as a second language.
Lucas also emailed the tip line about claims of misappropriation of money, lack of inclusion and diversity training and lack of in-person meeting requests.
“I decided to use that hotline for the purpose of our getting voices out,” Lucas said. “When we hear the governor say that every parent’s rights matter, they don't, not every parent’s rights matter.”
There were concerns about what was being taught in schools, including from one Fairfax parent who claimed a teacher refused to give him lesson plans so he can “fully understand what’s being taught.”
The parent said he wanted to make sure subjects like biology are being taught in a “non-controversial manner” fearing “divisive gender-bending LGBT-campaigns were overly sexualized lesson content.”
Another email in Fairfax County said he wanted his kid to opt-out of online tutoring because he was worried that children can communicate with their tutor via text or voice.
"This seems like just another potential path for unknown perverts to gain 1-one-1 access to our children,” he said in the email.
The same parent also criticized a curriculum in Fairfax County because he believed it indoctrinated students into becoming LGBTQ.
“Stop by lying by saying there are four parts, or ‘sex assigned at birth’. There is only 2-genders in humanity…male & female,” the email read.
There were several reports of issues with school districts enforcing masks soon after Youngkin’s executive order making them optional.
One parent in Loudoun County said his child was being bullied for choosing not to wear a mask and planned to file a religious exemption.
“They’re now being treated like second class citizens and are actively being discriminated against,” he said after he claimed his child was told to move to the back of a line so he could social distance.
However, other community members did the opposite. In at least seven emails, some praised educators instead of filing concerns. They wanted Youngkin to focus on the positive. In one email, a lady praised a teacher from Henrico County who makes lessons “active and engaging.”
“My goal is to send a message to the governor every day about awesome teachers from all over the state," the emailer wrote.
Months later, critics are still upset the tip line was even created.
"It was a way to intimidate teachers so they would not teach students the facts and truths (sometimes unfortunate) about the history of Virginia and the United States," Leslie Houston of Fairfax Education Association said. "Governor Youngkin used his platform to have parents call and report educators, the one profession that touch all other professions. Those tips were impactful, even the positive ones because it caused such angst to educators. The governor was not thinking about what was good for education, instead, he created a divisive tool to try to keep educators in line. If the tip-line yield nothing negative to our profession, Governor Youngkin should use his findings to lift educators up, not tear them down."
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