Virginia educators and parents on Wednesday urged the community to send positive experiences with teachers to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s new email hotline aimed at collecting information about school happenings that parents perceive as divisive.
Using the hashtag #ThankATeacher, social media users were encouraged to send an email to the new address with information about favorite teachers, how children feel about their current teachers and fond school memories.
The initiative comes after Youngkin told Richmond-area radio station WJFN that the inbox was created for parents to send information about divisive practices in schools. Youngkin specifically pointed to an incident in which students at a Fairfax County high school participated in a game called “Privilege Bingo.” The school system apologized for the incident.
In a statement about Youngkin’s announcement, Virginia Education Association President James Fedderman said the creation of the hotline was designed to intimidate teachers and school staff.
“The Governor has not created a reporting mechanism for any other professionals in the Commonwealth,” Fedderman said. “We question why he has singled out Virginia educators, and only educators, for this additional scrutiny now.”
Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said in an emailed statement that the governor’s office set up the email@example.com “as a resource for parents, teachers, and students to relay any questions or concerns.”
“Governor Youngkin was elected to serve all Virginians and has utilized a customary constituent service to hear from Virginians and solicit feedback,” she said.
This is misinformation. The gov’s office set up firstname.lastname@example.org as a resource for parents, teachers, & students to relay questions/concerns. Youngkin was elected to serve all Virginians & has utilized a customary constituent service to hear from Virginians. https://t.co/Ofl46Ow8bI
— Macaulay Porter (@macaulayporter) January 26, 2022
Virginia parent Melissa Zieziula Worthington said after learning of the governor’s announcement, she sent notes to school teachers and the principal. The instructors were appreciative of the support, she said.
“This hotline is a gut punch because it puts their professionalism into question,” Zieziula Worthington said. “If we all assure our teachers we have their back, this hotline is one less thing they need to worry about. There’s still gun violence, there’s still COVID and the loss of preventative measures, it’s not all OK.”
Therese Bell, a former elementary school teacher, said news of the hotline was disheartening.
“Teachers are overworked and underpaid,” Bell said. “It was a big slap in their face for all their hard work that they put out there every day.”
Students, Bell said, should be able to address concerns with teachers and then school administrators, before escalating issues to the state.
Education was a significant part of Youngkin’s campaign, during which he singled out critical race theory, an academic framework that examines how systemic racism is ingrained in American history. It’s not actually being taught in Virginia’s K-12 schools, but remains a target among conservatives nationwide and in the commonwealth.
On Thursday, Youngkin announced this week as “School Choice” week and vowed to “continually stand up for students and parents” and “sign the largest education budget in Virginia’s history.”
He also detailed plans for a $150 million investment toward 20 new charter schools across Virginia.
Earlier this week, seven Virginia school districts announced a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Youngkin’s executive order empowering parents to decide whether to send their students to school in masks.
The case is scheduled to be heard in Arlington Circuit Court next Wednesday.
Youngkin defended the executive order in a Washington Post op-ed Tuesday night.
WTOP’s Jack Pointer contributed to this report.