American Oversight Receives Supplemental Response in Lawsuit Over Youngkin’s ‘Inherently Divisive Concepts’ Tip Line

On Friday, Nov. 18, American Oversight received a supplemental response in our lawsuit seeking records related to Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s school tip line, which was launched in January for parents to report the teaching of “inherently divisive concepts.” 

Shortly following its launch, public reporting indicated that the tip line received a significant number of messages criticizing the measure, praising teachers, or spamming the inbox. According to the response to American Oversight’s lawsuit, the governor’s office had received 381,166 emails to the now-defunct tip line as of Sept. 27. Youngkin’s office told American Oversight that it had no records responsive to our request for emails sent in response to tip line submissions, suggesting that Youngkin and his staff did not substantively follow up on these tips. The only record that Youngkin’s office did produce was an email with a draft of a proposed automatic reply to submissions, which was shared with officials in the governor’s office. Youngkin’s office also said that it has no responsive records to our request for the policies and procedures governing the tip line.

American Oversight sued the governor’s office in August after it failed to release records in response to several public records requests we filed seeking emails sent from the tip line, related communications among staff and with entities and individuals outside the governor’s office, and policies and procedures used to handle incoming tips. 

Earlier this month, a separate lawsuit filed by a coalition of news organizations led to the release of 350 emails submitted to the tip line. Among the emails were complaints about pandemic procedures and teaching practices, as well as complaints about issues like special education violations and academic options. 

The Washington Post reported that the released emails were “thought to represent a small fraction” of the submissions, as under the terms of the settlement Youngkin’s administration only released submissions that had also been sent to the Virginia Department of Education, claiming that tips sent to the governor could be withheld under an exemption protecting the governor’s “working papers and correspondence.” That exemption was also cited by the office to withhold emails exchanged regarding the tip line, including with external entities, which were sought by American Oversight in our lawsuit.

Earlier this month, a spokesperson for Youngkin’s office said that the tip line had been deactivated in September because it had received “little to no volume” of tips at that time. 

More information on American Oversight’s investigation into Youngkin’s tip line is available here.