The Daily Dot, alongside a collective of other newsrooms including the Washington Post, CNN, and Axios, obtained approximately 350 emails about teachers and curriculum in Virginia public schools sent in the wake of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) 2021 gubernatorial victory.
The emails were sent to a tipline set up by Youngkin to ferret out “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) being taught in Virginia schools.
Youngkin ran on an education-themed platform, campaigning to remove CRT, the idea that race and ethnicity played a huge role in shaping history and politics, from Virginia schools. The extent to which CRT was being taught in Virginia schools in the run-up to Youngkin’s election is unknown. But as with a number of recent conservative boogeymen, like trans teachers grooming kids, invoking it is enough to induce panic.
Youngkin’s first executive order upon taking office on Jan. 15 was to “end the use of inherently divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory” in K-12 schools.
Youngkin’s second executive order gave parents the right to decide whether their kids should wear masks in schools, another issue Youngkin ran on.
After taking office and issuing the executive order, Youngkin launched a tipline, [email protected], designed to ferret out any teacher who disobeyed the new directives.
The tipline was bombarded with unrelated emails but featured a number of parents accusing tutors of grooming children with one-on-one contact, and complaints about masks, including accusations that maskless students were being held in concentration camps.
Teachers also used the tipline to highlight the contributions of their co-workers, trying to buck Youngkin’s intentions and “overload” it “with the wonderful things happening instead of a ‘1984’ big brother watching mentality.”
The Youngkin administration initially refused to disclose the emails in response to a FOIA request sent by the Daily Dot and other news outlets, prompting the collective suit against the state, which was resolved this month.
The emails the Daily Dot and others received from the tipline were ones that either cc’ed or were forwarded to the Virginia Department of Education. Because of the nature of the settled FOIA with the state, the emails that news organizations received may not be entirely representative of what was sent in.
In a statement to the Daily Dot, Youngkin’s spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said that: “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. The Governor wants constituents to be able to reach out to him without fear that their communications will not be kept confidential.”
Porter did not respond to questions about the content of the emails or Youngkin’s response to them.
Youngkin’s email tipline comes as teachers have been thrust into a national political debate, with conservative activists now policing and intimidating school board meetings. They believe leftist activists have infiltrated the education system, and are focused on rooting them out.
Teachers have also been criticized for how schools handled the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the majority of decisions being made above them. Nevertheless, emails to the tipline complained about teachers getting raises during the pandemic despite “being lazy.”
In an email declaring the teacher’s union to be “Nazi-like,” one parent decried test scores that dropped over the past year.
“In the past 13-months, your teachers and their (nazi-like Teachers Union) caused student math test scores to drop by 25. If I refused to do my job at work for 18-months, could I demand a Pay-Raise and Bonus?”
They went on to say that teachers were using a taxpayer-funded program to secretly groom children.
“There is no established mechanism for filing of official Parental Complaints against these [state-funded] Tutors. This seems like just another potential path for unknown perverts to gain 1-on-1 access to our children without School or Parental Supervision and monitoring. The feckless Superintendent and FCPS [Fairfax County Public Schools] School Board already negligently allowed such perverts to gain access to our children during COVID Home Study last year. This will happen again.”
In Loudoun County, which was a particular flashpoint in the election after a student was convicted of rape in a bathroom, a number of parents were particularly upset about mask policies, claiming that kids who weren’t wearing masks were rounded up in concentration camps.
“Just a heads up. The Superintendent of Loudoun County has instructed school principals to round up maskless elementary school students and place them in holding rooms indefinitely. Looking back in history. Does this sound familiar???” one email said, referencing the Holocaust.
The email included comments calling mask mandates child abuse and demanded the superintendents in Loudoun County be imprisoned.
“Disgusting. Making teachers and kids wear masks in the fall. Child abuse. I hope you all go to prison. Sleep well. Karma is a b^tch.”
More parents were upset about masks, with one parent claiming that their former career as a Marine meant school teachers also had a duty to disobey any unethical order.
“For exercising their rights, the Principal of their School … has taken the action of segregating my kids for the entirety of the school day where they must remain in a room and are denied in-person education. As a former Marine and police officer, if I was ever given an unlawful or unethical directive, it was my duty to protect the people entrusted to my care and disobey that order. What is being done to my children is unlawful, unethical, unacceptable, and cannot continue. My kids have been mistreated long enough. Send them to class.”
In Fairfax County, issues about sex education and gender also cropped up, mirroring a national panic that transgender ideology is somehow pushed in schools.
“I looked at the 8th Grade Family Life Education-FLE Curriculum & was appalled at the horrendous things you will attempt to indoctrinate (brainwash) our [redacted] with. For just one example: ‘Students will identify that development of individual identity occurs over a lifetime and includes the component of sexual orientation and gender identity.’ As teachers & School Administrators, it is NOT your duty or right to encourage & promote to students that they should be transgender, homosexual, or teach that the children’s gender is anything except what they were born with. Stop lying by saying there are four parts, or ‘sex assigned at birth’. There is only 2- genders in humanity…male & female, which each child is born with, & should remain for life,” the parent wrote.
Also in Fairfax County, one parent disagreed with a book her child was assigned to read that was sympathetic to immigrants.
“It was only because of COVID home-study that Parents discovered the FCPS School Board & Superintendent’s (and school’s) secret leftist, politically motivated agenda and Critical Race Theory-CRT brainwashing. It was only because [redacted] told me about it at home, that I (inadvertently) discovered that [a teacher] was attempting to force all of her students to read a biased book (that teaches her sympathetic views on millions of Illegal Aliens flooding across our American borders and we should be happy that they are stealing jobs from poor Americans).”
But heartwarming emails were sent in too, with some educators and parents trying to highlight the best in teachers and get it in front of Youngkin.
“I have had the recent privilege of meeting with [a teacher], who teaches health and physical education. His passion for teaching was evident within minutes of speaking with him. Parents of the students in his classes think he is fabulous! In addition to teaching, he provides after school opportunities for his students and he often collaborates with teachers in his geographic area to remain current in his teaching practices.”
In the wake of the tipline launching, education groups across Virginia released a joint statement in February urging Youngkin to shut it down, calling it “divisive, unnecessary, and … used to interrupt instruction and cause harm to teachers.”
The tipline also made its way to TikTok, where users tried to flood the email with fake tips.
But as for actual tips about specific reading material and teaching behavior, those complaints were minimal. One student wrote in to say that her teacher called Beowulf “sexist.”
In the wake of the backlash earlier this year, Youngkin defended the tipline.
“I think this is a very important part of our listening,” Youngkin said. “It makes me a better governor when I hear from all Virginians because it helps inform me on what’s on people’s minds.”