RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Emails to a “whistleblower line” that Gov. Glenn Youngkin has promoted asking parents to report any “inherently divisive practices” in schools will not be made public by his office.
Youngkin’s office cited an exemption from the State Public Records Act in response to the Freedom of Information Act request from sister station WAVY 8News requesting the messages sent to the email address.
The records are being withheld because they are considered “working papers and correspondence of the Governor’s Office,” Youngkin’s office wrote in an email. Other media who filed similar FOIA requests reported receiving the same response.
The governor, who has campaigned to give Virginia parents more authority in school decisions, touted the email address during an appearance on The John Fredericks Show Jan. 24. Youngkin called on parents to send “reports and submissions” to inform the state of any teaching concepts they see as divisive.
“We have set up a special email address called firstname.lastname@example.org, again email@example.com, for parents to send us any cases where they feel their basic rights are being violated , where their children are not respected, where there are inherent 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 make sure they have “a good idea of what’s going on at the school” and to expand the capacity of the state to eradicate these practices. He did not say who or how his administration would handle the email inquiry line.
The governor has faced criticism from Virginia Democrats, some teachers and parents after speaking out about the “counseling line,” a phrase used by Fredericks. Several people, including former political candidates and musician John Legendcalled on people to flood the email address with complaints and false advice.
Youngkin’s spokesperson Macaulay Porter called a Newsweek story — retweeted by CNN’s Jim Acosta — “misinformation.” The story had a headline stating that the email address was for parents to report teachers.
“The government office has created firstname.lastname@example.org as a resource for parents, teachers and students to relay questions/concerns,” Porter tweeted in response. “Youngkin was elected to serve all Virginians and used customary constituent service to hear from Virginians.”
Porter, a spokesperson for Youngkin, did not respond to 8News’ request for comment regarding the governor’s office’s refusal to grant the FOIA request.
The governor pledged 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 “dividing concepts.”
The first decree signed by Youngkin after taking office, he ordered top state 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 perpetuates in society, has been one of the main issues during the heated election cycle. Despite parental concerns and Youngkin’s order seeking to block it, the Virginia Department of Education has repeatedly stated that critical race theory is not part of the Commonwealth K-12 curriculum.