The student’s email was one of 350 the Youngkin administration released this week to settle a lawsuit the Washington Post and a a dozen more news outlets were brought in in April, after the governor refused to release the whistleblower line’s submissions under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.
The 350 emails – many of which are duplicates – are believed to represent only a small fraction of the advice, although the total number submitted remains secret. Youngkin’s office referred a question about the total to Attorney General Jason S. Miyares (R), who represented the state in the lawsuit. Miyares spokeswoman Victoria LaCivita declined to comment.
Youngkin claimed that the Whistleblower Line submissions fell under a FOIA exemption for a governor’s “working papers and correspondence.” Under the terms of the settlement, his administration only released the tips that were also sent or forwarded to a Virginia Department of Education email address.
Filed in Richmond Circuit Court by a media coalition including the Associated Press, Tribune Publishing and NPR, the suit argued that the exemptions for working papers and correspondence did not apply to submissions from the line of whistleblower — in part because, according to the suit, the submissions were shared with people outside the governor’s office, including the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank.
“We are pleased that the Attorney General’s settlement with multiple media representatives preserves the principle that a voter’s communication with a governor is protected by law and exempt from FOIA,” Youngkin’s spokeswoman said. , Macaulay Porter, in a statement. “The governor wants voters to be able to contact him without worrying that their communications will remain confidential.”
The nonprofit ethics watchdog group American Oversight, which also requested copies of the advice, is still suing them in a separate case filed in August in Arlington County Circuit Court.
Shortly after taking office in January, Youngkin announced that parents should report teachers who discuss “dividing” concepts in class via email. firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We ask people to send us reports and observations,” Youngkin said in a radio interview around the same time. “Help us be aware that … their child is being denied the rights his parents have in Virginia, and we’re going to make sure we catalog everything. …And that gives us even more ability to make sure we root it out.
Critics called the initiative an attempt to intimidate teachers and suggested flood the tip line with ironic complaints, such as the sarcastic warning that schools in Virginia taught “Arabic numerals”.
None of the advice released this week struck that tone, though one woman used the advice line to draw the governor’s attention to the state’s outstanding physical education teachers. Shed also send a copy to the teachers.
“I know the tip line wasn’t designed for compliments, but I’ve used it that way for the past 34 days while recovering [from] hip and back surgery, Sheila J. Jones, who is on sick leave from her job as the K-12 health and physical education coordinator for Virginia Beach schools, wrote to a Loudoun school official. “Answers [from teachers] ranging from “you made my day/my spirits are low and it lifted me up” to “you made me cry tears of joy”. ”
None of the tips — she sent 35 in as many days — generated a response from the administration, “not even an automated response,” Jones wrote in an email to The Post on Wednesday. But some fellow educators applauded his approach.
“I love that you use the ‘counseling line’ for this purpose,” Loudoun Assistant Superintendent Ashley F. Ellis, responded in an email included in those released by the state. “We have received a few emails from parents who have ‘reported’ the wonderful things their teachers have done to help their students. I hope these emails will not go unread. It’s really tough being a teacher in Virginia right now, so anything we can do to celebrate our teachers is important.
Many of the tips released this week reflect the K-12 culture wars that were at the heart of Youngkin’s closing argument during the campaign last year, when he slammed Democrats for school shutdowns. extended schools and mask mandates amid the coronavirus pandemic and accused school authorities of trying to indoctrinate ‘students on issues of race.
A parent complained of a “sympathetic” reading assignment towards immigrants. Another sounded the alarm over free online tutoring offered by a local school district, calling it “a potential avenue for unknown perverts” to prey on students. Some expressed concern that the concept of “gender identity” was included in the family life curriculum.
A mother from Spotsylvania called for seven books to be removed from school libraries, writing: “These books, in my opinion, make children numb to healthy sex and grooming in the wild.
Several parents were upset that some schools were requiring masks earlier this year, at a time when the courts were still determining whether Youngkin’s executive order attempting to ban mask mandates was legal. (The General Assembly eventually passed a law giving parents the right to remove their children from school mask mandates.)
In most cases, the sender’s name has been redacted. Yet that was not the case for the dozens of emails from Kandise Lucas, a disability advocate representing families of special education students involved in a variety of disputes with local school districts.
Lucas — no relation to State Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), one of Youngkin’s harshest critics in the Legislative Assembly — referenced the governor’s campaign rhetoric in some of his emails. In March, for example, when she sent information to the hotline about a family who had been denied their student’s school records, concluding with “When will parents matter?”
In an interview, Lucas said the administration had not responded to any of her “advice” — a disappointment, she said, because at the request of Youngkin’s campaign, she held a town hall on special education at a church in Chesterfield with first lady Suzanne Youngkin ahead of last year’s election. (Youngkin’s office could not immediately confirm the town hall event.)
“We were told the money would follow the child, parents matter,” said Lucas, a political independent who voted for Youngkin. “I thought they were listening.”