Complaints about special education violations. Praise for teachers. Concerns about academic rigor and options.
These are some of the main themes in a sampling of the emails sent to a so-called tip line set up by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin earlier this year for parents to report, as he put it, “any instances where they feel that their fundamental rights are being violated” and schools are engaging in “inherently divisive practices.” The email tip line was part of a larger campaign by the governor to root out the teaching of critical race theory. But few of the tips flag the types of practices Youngkin was describing.
The records became public this week through a settlement between the governor’s office and 13 media organizations, including the USA TODAY Network, which in April had sued for the emails after requests to see the correspondence were denied.
Youngkin has said the submissions are protected by exemptions to Virginia open records law for a governor’s “working papers and correspondence.” Some fraction of the tips sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, however, were also sent to people in the Virginia Department of Education, and those email records were provided as part of the settlement. The remaining records have not been made public.
The January announcement about Youngkin’s tip line was met with immediate criticism and a surge of activity. All of the emails in the 350-record sample were dated in the first few months of 2022.
Despite the hundreds of records in the selection of emails, they comprise a small, vocal group of people at about three dozen email addresses who often reiterated their grievances in multiple missives.
Based on USA TODAY’s analysis of the sample, which may not be representative of what the governor has received, much of the activity may not have been what he was looking for. CRT, the graduate school-level framework that examines how racism continues to shape society, came up rarely.
“I explained to him that I was going to use that tip line to address issues that are real – not red-herring issues,” said Kandise Lucas, a special education advocate who accounted for nearly half of the email records obtained by the media organizations.