RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Emails to a “tip line” that Gov. Glenn Youngkin promoted and asked parents to report any “inherently divisive practices” in schools won’t be made public by his office.
Youngkin’s office cited an exemption from the state’s public-records law in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from WFXR’s sister station, WRIC, seeking the messages sent to the email address.
The records are being withheld because they are considered “working papers and correspondence of the Office of the Governor,” Youngkin’s office wrote in an email. Other news outlets that filed similar FOIA requests have reported getting the same response.
The governor, who campaigned on giving Virginia parents more authority in school decisions, touted the email address during an appearance on “The John Fredericks Show” on Jan. 24. Youngkin called on parents to send “reports and observations” to make the state aware of any teaching concepts they consider divisive.
“We have set up a particular email address called email@example.com, again firstname.lastname@example.org, for parents to send us any instances where they feel their fundamental rights are being violated, where their children are not being respected, where there are inherently divisive practices in their schools,” Youngkin told the conservative radio host.
Youngkin, the first Republican to win statewide in Virginia since 2009, said his administration would catalog the emails they receive to ensure they have “great insight into what’s happening at the school level” and to expand the state’s ability to root out those practices. He did not share who or how his administration would manage the email tip line.
The governor faced criticism from Virginia Democrats, some teachers and parents after talking up the “tip line,” a phrase Fredericks used. Several people, including former political candidates and musician John Legend, called on people to flood the email address with complaints and fake tips.
Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter called out a story from Newsweek — retweeted by CNN’s Jim Acosta — as “misinformation.” The story had a headline indicating that the email address was meant for parents to report teachers.
“The gov’s office set up email@example.com as a resource for parents, teachers, & students to relay questions/concerns,” Porter tweeted in response. “Youngkin was elected to serve all Virginians & has utilized a customary constituent service to hear from Virginians.”
Porter, Youngkin’s spokesperson, did not respond to WRIC’s request for comment regarding the governor’s office’s refusal to grant the FOIA request.
The governor vowed to overhaul Virginia’s K-12 education, saying he would stand up for parents and teachers, bring more charter schools to the Commonwealth, and rid the curriculum of “divisive concepts.”
The first executive order Youngkin signed after taking office directed the state’s top education officials “to end the use of inherently divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory, and to raise academic standards.”
Critical race theory, an academic framework based on the idea that racism is systemic and is perpetuated in society, was one of the main issues during the heated election cycle. Despite concerns from parents and Youngkin’s order seeking to block it, the Virginia Department of Education said repeatedly that critical race theory is not part of the Commonwealth’s K-12 curriculum.