Youngkin faces criticism from Dems over schools 'tipline'

Youngkin faces criticism from Dems over schools 'tipline'
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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is facing a mounting backlash from Democratic lawmakers and some teachers and parents during his first month in office as word spread about an email address his administration set up to solicit concerns about schools.

Youngkin, a political newcomer who campaigned heavily on education and a promise to give parents more sway in their children’s curriculums, promoted the email address in an interview with a conservative radio host earlier in the week.

He urged parents to write with “any instances where they feel that their fundamental rights are being violated, where their children are not being respected, where there are inherently divisive practices in their schools.”

The initiative is part of a broader push by Youngkin to identify and root out what he says are elements of critical race theory in the state's curriculum.

Republicans have defended the email intake, which Youngkin’s spokesperson characterized as a typical way to seek input from Virginians. The email address itself was initially rolled out Friday, in a news release about the governor's executive order aiming to allow parents to opt their children out of school mask mandates. Parents were urged to write with “any questions or concerns” about the new guidance.

“Governor Youngkin was elected to serve all Virginians and has utilized a customary constituent service, to hear from Virginians and solicit feedback,” spokesperson Macaulay Porter said.

But a teachers union, Democrats in the General Assembly, some parents and other observers criticized the move as divisive, authoritarian and unfairly targeting educators.

The email address, or tipline as it's been referred to, became the subject of an unusually heated debate in the state House on Wednesday. The issue also gained traction online, with some critics urging others to spam the email address. There were also calls to report positive interactions in schools. Singer-songwriter John Legend tweeted that Black parents should weigh in with “complaints about our history being silenced.”

“We are parents too,” he said.

Republican elected officials defend the move and said Democrats were continuing to ignore a constituency they say helped power them to a GOP sweep in November. They also noted that former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's administration had employed a similar online intake system to report violations of coronavirus restrictions.

“Parents voicing concerns to elected officials charged with the oversight of education. That’s not spying ... that’s democracy, that citizen oversight,” Del. Kathy Byron said.

Attorney General Jason Miyares defended the tipline during an appearance Wednesday night on Fox News, saying it was simply a tool for “parental empowerment.”

In his radio interview, Youngkin said the tipline would help his administration ensure that it was aware of what was happening at the school level and enable it to “catalog” and “root out” instances of divisive practices. He cited as a specific example a “privilege bingo” lesson at a northern Virginia school.

Fairfax County Public Schools issued an apology last week after parents and activists complained about an English class at Oakton High High School in which students received a bingo card titled “Identifying Your Privilege” that included boxes like “Male,” “White,” “Heterosexual” and “Military Kid."

“We're going to be able to review and make sure that these kinds of practices aren’t being used in the classroom,” Youngkin said.


Associated Press writer Matthew Barakat in Falls Church, Virginia, contributed to this report.