A Virginia teachers' union has accused Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin of trying to "intimidate educators" by setting up a tip line that parents can use to report teachers.
Youngkin this week promoted a government email address that he said parents can use to report "divisive practices," while speaking about his executive order banning critical race theory in schools.
The goal is for parents "to send us any any instances where they feel that their fundamental rights are being violated, where their children are not being respected, where there are inherently divisive practices in their schools," Youngkin told conservative radio host John Fredericks during an interview on Monday.
"We're going to make sure we catalog it all," he added. "It gives us a great insight into what's happening at the school level. And that gives us further, further ability to make sure we're rooting it out."
James J. Fedderman, the president of the Virginia Education Association (VEA), a union representing more than 40,000 teachers and school support professionals, described the tip line as "poorly conceived" and "designed to intimidate educators simply trying to do their jobs."
In a statement to Newsweek, Fedderman said: "Since the start of his campaign for Governor, Glenn Youngkin has blatantly attempted to pit educators against parents for political gain, seeming to forget that many educators are also parents.
"When the Governor speaks of 'parents' rights', he seems interested in speaking only to those who conveniently support his political beliefs.
"Now, barely two weeks into his administration, he has managed to sow chaos and division throughout the Commonwealth with his unconstitutional executive orders and poorly conceived 'hotline' designed to intimidate educators simply trying to do their jobs."
Fedderman also noted that Youngkin has not created a reporting mechanism for other professionals in the state. "We question why he has singled out Virginia educators, and only educators, for this additional scrutiny now," he added.
Youngkin spokesperson, Macaulay Porter, told Newsweek the governor's office set up the tip line 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 added.
Youngkin has been accused of tapping into so-called "culture war" disputes over issues including critical race theory during his campaign for Virginia governor.
On his first day in office on January 15, he signed an executive order that his office said delivered on a promise to "restore excellence in education by ending the use of divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory, in public education."
Critical race theory, or CRT, is an academic framework that centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation's institutions.
Although it is not taught in K-12 schools, critical race theory has become a catch-all term to describe teachings in schools about race and U.S. history—with Republicans across the country railing against it as an effort to rewrite history and make white people feel they are inherently racist.
But "a full and complete education must be rooted in facts and truth, even if some of those are difficult facts, and even if some of those are unfortunate truths about the history of Virginia and the United States," Fedderman said.
"An honest and open exploration of our nation's history is what we need to come together as a country, and to label it anything else is inaccurate and simply a distraction. It seems it is easier for politicians to start a divisive culture war than deal head-on with the real problems facing our schools."
Rather than "feeling threatened by this blatantly political tactic," educators and parents to use the tip line to report the "amazing things going on in Virginia classrooms on a daily basis," Fedderman said.
"Despite his best efforts to divide us, these are the stories of kindness, professionalism, perseverance, and exceptionalism that bring parents, students, and educators together.
Update at 9:10 a.m. ET on 1/26/22: This article has been updated to include a comment from Macalauy Porter.