PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A new “divisive learning” tip line for Virginia’s parents is raising some eyebrows among educators and community members in the commonwealth.
The tip line, created by the governor’s office, serves as a way for parents, students and teachers to report educators and schools who use “divisive teaching practices.” Gov. Youngkin in his first executive order signed as governor said those “divisive” topics include critical race theory, a graduate level coursework that focuses on the idea that racism is systemic and perpetuated in society. Educators have said that critical race theory already isn’t taught in schools, and fear bans will scare teachers from teaching the truth about history and racism as subject matter deemed offensive or disagreeable is labeled as “CRT.”
President Dr. James Fedderman of the Virginia Education Association says he nor the over 40,000 teachers in the VEA received guidance from the state detailing what exactly constitutes “divisive learning.”
“This has simply divided our educators even more,” he said. “How is that defined? Who determines what is? None of that guidance to my knowledge has been provided. And again, it’s just another mechanism that creates chaos and division.”
Others, like President Thomas Calhoun of the Norfolk Federation of Teachers, fear this tip line will add more pressure to teachers, already overwhelmed by the growing pressure the last two years.
“I’m teaching history and I got my history book, OK? I’m teaching fourth grade, OK? And I turn to chapter one and chapter one is on the Civil War and this what it says,” he said. “What, what do I do? Don’t teach this page?”
The tip line is an email, email@example.com, which the Governor’s Office says would help Governor Youngkin be able to receive feedback easier from his constituents.
Community members say this tip line is far from reform.
“It’s Jim Crow. It’s not reform. It’s control. It’s a control and since when has history, true history been divisive,” said President Gaylene Kanoyton of the Hampton Branch of the NAACP.
Aside from added pressure, educators are worried this could worsen a preexisting teacher shortage.
“It’s just another thing you have to live with every day and after a while, it gets too much. We’re going to lose teachers,” Calhoun said.
He says he knows of many teachers in Norfolk who didn’t return to the classroom this month after the holiday break and expects that to go up in June.
When asked the Governor’s Office for more details about the tip line. They referred us to this press release and said in a statement:
The governor’s office set up firstname.lastname@example.org 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.Governor Youngkin Spokesperson Macaulay Porter
The Virginia Department of Education referred us back to the Governor’s Office when we asked them for a statement about the tip line.
Educators say the focus needs to be on building better relationships between parents and teachers, not implement policies that drive a wedge between them.
“A hotline like this to help that, that’s not the idea. If parents want to know, they ought to talk to the teachers. Not to the governor or anyone else. To the teachers,” Calhoun said.
Others say they’re worried about how a policy like this could affect students in the future.
“What does the hotline really mean for the future of children in public education? That’s the question he needs to be answering,” said Fedderman. “If the governor wants to do something meaningful for educators, then he should increase their salaries at or above the national average.”
10 On Your Side is looking to hear from parents who are willing to go on camera and talk about their thoughts about these changes coming to schools. Those interested should fill out this online form.