RICHMOND, Va. — A bland-looking email address launched by Governor Glenn Youngkin meant for parents to report incidents at Virginia schools where they feel their rights are being undermined has parents, teachers, lawmakers and even big-time celebrities weighing in.
The Governor’s Office said the email, firstname.lastname@example.org, is for parents to report violations of his first two Executive Orders, which allow parents to opt their students out of school masking requirements and bans the teaching of “inherently divisive topics” — including critical race theory, which is not currently part of the Virginia Department of Education's curriculum standards.
“To send us any instances where they feel their fundamental rights are being violated,” Youngkin said during an interview on The John Fredericks Radio Show Monday.
He has not said who monitors the email and what steps will be ensue after a report is received.
This week, backlash over the order and the "tip line" began to build on social media, with celebrities like John Legend and comedian Patton Oswald sharing the address with their followers.
“Black parents need to flood these tip lines with complaints about our history being silenced,” Legend wrote on Twitter, referring to the critical race theory ban.
The Virginia Education Association, which serves as the main teacher's union in Virginia, called the tip line a “divisive distraction,” and urged people to instead send in messages about the great things their teachers do each day.
Speaking to a group of Virginia business owners Wednesday, Youngkin did not directly address the tip line, but briefly spoke to the controversy his initial executive actions have stirred.
“I also am surprised that so many, that we in fact said we would do a bunch of things, and off we go,” Youngkin said.
Officials said Youngkin’s schedule did not have time for him to take questions from the press following the speech. However, Youngkin penned an opinion piece in the Washington Post regarding his school masking opt-out order.
State Senator Louise Lucas said she does not expect the tip line to lead to much of anything.
“Like a lot of other gimmicks that a lot of other governors have put forward, this one is going to fall flat like a lead balloon,” she said.
Lucas said most parents she has spoken with do not think the tip line is necessary, and view it as an “intimidation” tactic.
“I have never seen a governor act in such an irresponsible way as to reach down to the parents and by-step the teachers, by-step the principal, the superintendents of school, just to try to intimidate,” Lucas said. “There’s more than just one segment of parents in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Is he listening to Black parents, Hispanic parents, Asian-American parents? Which parents is he listening to? He needs to listen to all parents. Last I checked, parents in the Commonwealth of Virginia want their children to be safe in school.”
For Courtney Worthington, a parent of four children in Hanover County Schools, the school mask debate has become overly politicized and charged.
“I feel like even the teachers feel like they’re being attacked,” she said. “I don’t think anyone should feel like they’re being attacked. I think those [who want kids masked in schools] should have a voice. If they want to speak out for their rights as well, that’s one thing, but I don’t think rights are getting taken away by having a choice in masks.”
Worthington said she is grateful that Hanover decided to allow parents to opt-out their children from masking in school because she said two of her children have experienced language development setbacks during the pandemic.
Friends in neighboring counties who chose to opt their students out of mandatory masking policies, Worthington said, have been removed from the classroom environment.
“This tip line was created for the governor to be made aware of it, for Miyares to be made aware of it, so they can help these parents. It’s just been twisted into something it’s not meant to be,” she said.