NORFOLK, Va. — Gov. Glenn Youngkin's introduction of a school tip line is prompting questions and concerns from educators across Virginia, including the Commonwealth's largest teacher's union.
This week, Youngkin encouraged parents to report "divisive practices" in Virginia schools through an email tip line. People can now email email@example.com to voice concerns.
"We are going to get divisive practices out of the school system, including Critical Race Theory," Youngkin said in a recent interview with conservative radio host John Fredericks.
Critical Race Theory is not taught in K-12 public schools. Instead, it is more suited for graduate school-level discussions.
However, in the interview, Youngkin referenced reports of a Fairfax County school recently using "privilege bingo" as a class assignment, and said his administration is "going to be able to review and make sure these kinds of practices aren’t being used in the classrooms."
A spokesperson for the governor's office called the tip line “a resource for parents, teachers, and students to relay any questions or concerns.”
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However, some educators are weary of the message it could send to teachers, as well as the impact it could have on education.
"It heightens our level of caution, care and concerns, as to why he has singled out Virginia educators,” said Dr. James Fedderman, president of the Virginia Education Association.
Fedderman, who released a statement Tuesday in response to the tip line, said the teacher's union is "highly disappointed," and said the move is designed to intimidate teachers, who he believes are being unfairly targeted.
"It heightens our level of caution, care and concerns, as to why he has singled out Virginia educators,” he said.
February is Black History Month, and Fedderman wonders how that will play into the tip line.
“For parents that don’t think that should be taught, I guess everybody’s going to be reporting to the hotline," he said.
In the interview with Fredericks, Youngkin said Virginia will teach "all history."
“We are indeed going to teach all history, the good and the bad, but we are going to get these inherently divisive practices out of the classrooms," he said.
"I'm very concerned about people taking offense to everything," said Dr. Denelle Wallace, the dean of Norfolk State University's School of Education.
Wallace said educators typically welcome parent engagement and the idea of a hotline is not a bad thing, in and of itself. However, she questions if the way it is currently constructed would be inclusive of all families.
The administration did not say who will oversee the hotline or how the administration will decide which tips to investigate.
“What parents are going to utilize this tip line and how will this tip line be utilized in a way that allows all voices to be heard?" Wallace posed.
Wallace encourages the governor to reach out to educators of all backgrounds to figure out more inclusive ways to get feedback.
In an e-mail, a spokesperson for the governor’s office said, "Governor Youngkin was elected to serve all Virginians and has utilized a customary constituent service, to hear from Virginians and solicit feedback.”
"My hope is that he would give parents of all backgrounds the ability to engage, and he recognize the tip line may only reach a certain population," Wallace said. "You’re going to need other avenues to balance out the feedback."
Wallace is also concerned about the impact this will have on aspiring teachers, especially from minority groups.
“Unfortunately a tip line really does hinder the ability to attract a diverse teacher population that we already don’t have,” she said.
Fedderman is worried about the potential added pressures for educators, already tasked with navigating a teacher shortage and the COVID-19 pandemic.