STATEWIDE — It’s been two weeks since Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced that an email tip line that encourages parents to report “divisive practices” in Virginia schools.
Youngkin said that the tip line email, firstname.lastname@example.org, allows parents to send concerns about violations of students’ “fundamental rights” and any other perceived divisive practices within the schools, such as critical race theory (CTR), though it is not currently part of any public school curriculum in the Commonwealth.
The tip line faced immediate backlash from the public, and within days, was flooded with memes and fake tips while also being spoofed on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”
Many teachers and parents have raised concerns that the tip line will only further divide the public school system in Virginia.
“This should not be parents against our wonderful educators, and is divisive and unnecessary,” Pamela Croom, president of the Virginia Parent Teacher Association (PTA) said. “School Boards already abide by the Code of Virginia, providing policy ‘with clear procedures for handling challenged controversial materials.'”
“We should find ways to bring parents, community and leaders together to strengthen our school communities,” Croom added. “This tip line has stoked fear amongst our teachers and compounded the growing shortage Virginia already faces in our classrooms – effecting everyone’s main concern – our children. We must not foster an environment where our educators are teaching to the test, and directly undermine the very factors that educators know contribute to student success, including having high quality teachers in the classroom.”
Local teachers, like Bruton High School social studies teacher John Jacobson, say that they teach for the students, not for the politics.
“No teacher lasts longer than a year or two unless they are in it because they like to work with young people,” Jacobson said. “In a social studies course, I view it as I’m not really trying to necessarily teach history. I don’t care if the kid knows that the Battle of Antietam was in 1862. I want them to learn to be better thinkers. I think that’s the value of a class in social studies, where you’re dealing with different ideas.”
Jacobson noted that there has been little clarity over how the tip line is monitored and where it reports to.
“We’re all hired by the individual school districts. And the tip line reports to the state,” he said. “If there’s a problem with a teacher, you’ve got a process for it. You go to the principal and they deal with it.”
Gov. Youngkin recently stated that he will not disclose the tips coming into his office, saying that the information coming through the tip line is private.
Meanwhile, the Virginia Education Association (VEA) is taking the tip line in another direction.
“We ask that the tip line actually be about the great things that are happening in public schools,” said VEA Vice President Carol Bauer. “We’re talking to parents and to teachers to make sure that the tip line is used to say, ‘hey let me tell you about the great things that are happening in the school.'”
The motivation for the positive spin comes after the VEA reached out to Governor Youngkin asking questions about how the tip line will be used, how will the tip line be monitored, and where the tips are going.
“So, the Governor is unclear. He was unable to answer any of those questions,” Bauer said. “This has actually turned into a very positive thing for many instances. In fact, I’ve heard of parents who wrote to the tip line, and copied it, and sent it to teachers. In a very positive light. It was actually an opportunity that the parents have taken to let teachers know that they’re doing a great job.”
The VEA has over 40,000 members and the organization is affiliated with the National Educators Association (NEA) which has over 3 million members. Bauer says that teachers have been sharing their concerns with her and that they’ve been feeling disheartened.
“They’re feeling like the Governor is not out to support teachers,” said Bauer. “I’m not sure who it’s [the tip line] supporting, because I don’t really know what’s going to happen with the things that are being reported. So I don’t know if it’s supporting anyone. I don’t know if there’s a need for it. I don’t know if it’s going to serve any purpose.”
Bauer says that the VEA will continue to reach out and support educators, support the students and that VEA will work with any administration to support educators and students.
“So VEA has reached out to Governor Youngkin,” said Bauer. “He’s not responded but we will continue to reach out to him to provide input and provide direction and provide information about what policies do benefit students and teachers.”
More information on the positive tip line can be found on VEA’s Social Media Page.
“Despite Youngkins’ efforts to try to divide educators. It’s really bringing us together,” said Bauer. “The other thing to remind Governor Youngkin, as well as others, is that a lot of educators are parents. So you can’t really divide parents from educators because a lot of educators are parents.”
Gov. Youngkin’s office has not returned WYDaily’s request to comment. We will keep you up-to-date as we learn more.