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Va. Gov. Youngkin faces second suit over teacher tip line

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin in July. (Steve Helber/AP)

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is facing a second lawsuit over his administration’s repeated refusals to release records related to an email tip line he set up for parents to report school employees who teach “divisive” subjects.

Nonprofit ethics watchdog group American Oversight and the law firm Ballard Spahr filed the suit Monday in Arlington County Circuit Court. The suit seeks documents that show how Youngkin (R) and his staff used the tip line, including how they responded to tips submitted.

“What is the tip line’s true purpose and how has the Administration acted on these ‘tips’?” Heather Sawyer, executive director of American Oversight, said in a statement. “What is it about this program that they don’t want the public to see?”

Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter on Wednesday referred a request for comment to the state attorney general’s office. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Jason S. Miyares said the office does not comment on pending litigation.

Media outlets file suit over Va. Gov. Youngkin’s teacher tip line

The new lawsuit follows a suit filed in April by The Washington Post and a dozen other media outlets in Richmond Circuit Court. That suit, which is ongoing and whose other plaintiffs include the Associated Press, Tribune Publishing and NPR, seeks copies of submissions sent to the governor’s tip line.

The governor had previously denied media outlets’ formal requests for copies of the tip line submissions under the Freedom of Information Act. Spokespeople for the Youngkin administration have maintained the submissions cannot be published because they constitute the governor’s “working papers and correspondence.”

Youngkin, who won the governorship in 2021 partly by promising to root out “critical race theory” and other “inherently divisive” subjects from public education, created the tip line in January, shortly after taking office. He announced that parents should report teachers who discuss “divisive” concepts in the classroom by emailing helpeducation@governor.virginia.gov.

“We’re asking for folks to send us reports and observations,” Youngkin said in a radio interview around the same time. “Help us be aware of … their child being denied their rights that parents have in Virginia, and we’re going to make sure we catalogue it all. … And that gives us further, further ability to make sure we’re rooting it out.”

Sawyer, the American Oversight director, previously filed several public records requests asking for copies of emails sent to helpeducation@governor.virginia.gov, as well as emails from Youngkin’s staff responding to the tip line or discussing procedures for how to handle tip line submissions.

All of these requests have been denied, according to Sawyer.

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