Lawsuit Seeks Records of Gov. Youngkin’s Controversial Teacher Tip Line

On Monday, American Oversight and the law firm Ballard Spahr filed a lawsuit against Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin for the release of records related to the governor’s “inherently divisive concepts” tip line. The lawsuit seeks to uncover documents that could reveal how Youngkin and his staff used the tip line and what, if anything, officials did in response to tips that were submitted. 

In January 2022, Youngkin issued an executive order banning the teaching of “inherently divisive concepts,” including critical race theory. The executive order did not define critical race theory, or CRT, which is an academic framework not formally taught in any public K-12 school curricula in Virginia. Later that month, Youngkin announced the launch of an email tip line ([email protected]) for parents to report any school officials teaching banned topics. 

Although the tip line has ostensibly been in operation since January, little is known about how the tips are being handled by Youngkin’s staff. In April, the Washington Post and a dozen other news outlets sued Youngkin’s office for the release of tip line submissions. Youngkin had denied their requests, claiming that documents related to the executive order may be withheld under existing exemptions protecting the governor’s “working papers and correspondence.” 

American Oversight Executive Director Heather Sawyer filed several public records requests seeking email communications sent by [email protected], emails sent by Youngkin’s staff in response to the tip line, protocols or procedures for handling emails sent to the tip line, records that would identify the number of tips submitted to the tip line, and emails sent to entities outside of Youngkin’s office — including the Virginia Department of Education — related to the tip line. 

“From the start, this tip line has been criticized as a political ploy that puts teachers and public education at risk. The secrecy makes matters worse,” said Sawyer. “While publicly defending the tip line, the Youngkin administration refuses to release records that would allow the public to decide for themselves. What is the tip line’s true purpose and how has the administration acted on these ‘tips’? What is it about this program that they don’t want the public to see?” 

Youngkin’s office refused to turn over many of the records Sawyer requested, claiming — implausibly — that some of the requested records do not exist, and that others are exempt “working papers and correspondence,” leading to Monday’s lawsuit filed on behalf of Sawyer by American Oversight and Ballard Spahr in Arlington County Circuit Court.

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

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