The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying and responding to trauma with evidence-based resilience strategies. The concepts imparted are useful for teachers, managers, and anyone working in a customer-service or client-based industry. This six-hour, online course is broken into three sessions, all of which are required to receive the Trauma-Informed Certification. One set of classes will be offered Tuesday mornings, from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon, on February 9, 16, and 23. The second set will be offered Thursday evenings, from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm, on February 11, 18, and 25. Pre-registration is required; to do so, email Christa Shifflett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Warren Coalition is a nonprofit agency established in 1994 to help fill the gaps in health care and substance abuse awareness to the community. The Coalition began under the guidance of Warren Memorial Hospital as an outreach project, but it has since grown and was incorporated in 2001. The office is currently located in the Warren County Community Center. Their mission is to make Warren County a safe, healthy, and drug free community through many programs and in collaboration with 15+ member agencies.
Virginia lawmakers ban gay panic defense in Virginia
Virginia lawmakers passed a bill that will ban the use of a person’s perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity as a defense in court for the assault or murder of an LGBTQ person.
“It’s done: We’re banning the gay/trans panic defense in Virginia,” Del. Danica Roem, D-Manassas, said in a Twitter post.
Roem introduced House Bill 2132, which passed the Senate 23-15 on Thursday with an amendment. The House approved the amendment in a 58-39 vote. The bill now heads to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk for a signature.
The Senate amendment adds oral solicitation or hitting on someone, as an unacceptable justification for the gay or transgender panic defense.
The panic defense has historically been used in cases where a member of the LGBTQ community was attacked because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Defendants use the panic defense to justify “heat of passion” murders or assaults.
“This [bill] means someone’s mere existence as an LGBTQ person does not excuse someone else and does not constitute a reason of provocation to commit such a heat of passion attack,” Roem said.
The statute does not dismiss traditional self-defense lawsuits. This means LGBTQ people can still be prosecuted for attacking someone.
There have been at least eight instances in Virginia where the panic defense was used, with the last case in 2011, according to Carsten Andresen, a researcher and criminal justice professor from Austin, Texas. He said he has tracked 200 homicide cases nationally where the panic defense was attempted. Andresen reached out to Roem in support of the bill.
His research included five murders and three assaults in Virginia between 1973 and 2011 that Andresen said used the panic defense to justify or excuse a defendant’s violent actions. Mark Hayes murdered Tracie Gainer, a transgender woman, in 2002. Hayes claimed he “lost it” and murdered Gainer when he realized she was a man after engaging in sexual intercourse. In 2011, Deandre Moore, age 18, pleaded guilty to killing 20-year-old Jacques Cowell by stabbing him multiple times. Cowell was openly gay and there were witness accounts that the two had a physical relationship. Moore received a 40-year prison sentence, with 15 years suspended.
“In these cases, criminal defense attorneys used gay and trans panic defense to put the victim (rather than the offender) on trial,” Andresen wrote in support of the bill. He said the use of the panic defense “suggests that it is permissible to commit violence” against LGBTQ people.
Sen. Joseph Morrissey, D-Richmond, spoke in opposition of the bill, saying lawmakers should not pass laws that prohibit defendants from making a defense and that lawmakers would be going “down a very slippery slope.” Morrissey said any defendant who would offer the panic defense “would of course be rejected.”
Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, said this is not the first time Virginia has expressly prohibited a defense. Legislators repealed in 2008 the code section that provided defense from carnal knowledge when a defendant marries a child 14 years or older.
“When we have found an affirmative defense to be abhorrent to public policy we have gotten rid of it,” McClellan said.
McClellan said she wished she could agree with Morrissey that no judge would accept the panic defense, but referred back to the Virginia cases where it was used successfully.
“We know the bill is constitutional, we know also, the bill has existing precedence, which is why it has earned overwhelming bipartisan support in statehouses across the country,” Roem said.
The American Bar Association in 2013 recommended that local, state, and federal legislatures curtail the availability and effectiveness of the gay and transgender panic defense. Roem said that similar bills have been implemented in other state legislatures. Virginia will become the 12th state to ban the panic defense, according to the policy organization Movement Advancement Project.
The defense is also banned in the District of Columbia.
There are currently 39 states that allow the panic defense to be used in cases where hate crimes resulted in the assault or murder of an LGBTQ individual. This typically results in a murder charge being lessened to a charge of manslaughter or acquittal.
Roem said she worked with Wes Bizzell, president of the National LGBT Bar Association, to prepare the bill. She also thanked Judy Shephard, the mother of Matthew Shephard, for speaking in support of the bill in committee.
Matthew Shephard, a gay man, was murdered in 1998 in Laramie, Wyoming. The judge barred Aaron McKinney’s defense lawyer from using the gay panic defense in the murder trial. McKinney said Shepard’s advances triggered memories of sexual abuse he suffered as a child. Police said the crime was motivated by robbery, but Shepard’s sexual orientation likely made him the target.
There were four people involved in the brutal crime. Two were found guilty of murder and two were charged with being an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder.
Roem was in high school when Matthew Shephard was murdered. She said the case had a profound effect on her and prevented her from coming out due to a fear of being ostracized and attacked.
“It was requested to me by one of my Manassas Park student constituents who’s out, hoping not to have to live in the same fear in 2021 that I did in 1998,” Roem said of the bill.
Roem said there are people who don’t believe hate crimes such as the one against Shephard happen today in Virginia. She affirmed that they do happen, and she believes it is time to do something about it.
“We have to look at this from the perspective of ‘what do we do to make an affirmative statement that LGBTQ lives matter and that you can’t just kill us for existing,” Roem said.
By Cierra Parks
Capital News Service
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.
Governor Northam introduces first-ever statewide strategic plan to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion
On February 26, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam unveiled ONE Virginia, a first-in-the-nation statewide strategic plan to advance visible diversity, equity, and inclusion across state government.
“To truly move forward as a Commonwealth, we must prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion as our collective goals,” said Governor Northam. “The ONE Virginia Plan is a strategic blueprint to institutionalize equity across state government and effectively address deeply-rooted structural and systemic barriers to access and opportunity. This roadmap will ensure our efforts are accompanied by accountability, measurable results, and sustained impact, and help make Virginia the best place to live, work, visit, and thrive.”
In September 2019, Governor Northam appointed Dr. Janice Underwood to serve as Virginia’s first cabinet-level Chief Diversity Officer. The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI) have worked collaboratively with public and private stakeholders to develop the ONE Virginia Plan—a sustainable framework to operationalize equity and promote inclusive practices across Virginia with a focus on reducing inequities.
“Diversity, equity, and inclusion are more than a moral imperative or a legal mandate—they are key to achieving organizational excellence,” said Dr. Underwood. “Together we are charting a new path for our Commonwealth, one that values our diverse people as our greatest strength. Using the Inclusive Excellence framework, ONE Virginia will help implement tangible reforms that interrupt long-held systems of structural inequity to create sustainable change, innovation, and productivity across state government, throughout Virginia, and around our country.”
The ONE Virginia Plan will support more than 100 state agencies in the Commonwealth in prioritizing and implementing strategies to provide fair and equitable services and cultivate a valued and high-performing workforce. It will help ensure that people in positions of leadership understand systemic inequity and its effects and work to increase diversity at all levels of government, foster an inclusive and welcoming organizational culture, establish shared accountability for visible equity, and promote community engagement. In the coming months, the ODEI will seek input and suggestions from state employees, external stakeholders, and community leaders to further develop a concrete equity policy.
“It has been an honor to work with Dr. Underwood, alongside an amazing steering committee, to stretch the ONE Virginia model throughout the Commonwealth to build statewide capacity for inclusive excellence,” said Dr. Kevin McDonald, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Community Partnerships at the University of Virginia. “I have already engaged the greater Charlottesville area in this important work, and I am excited about its potential for scale across Virginia.”
The ONE Virginia Plan is an unprecedented model for fostering diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace environments and is being codified by the General Assembly through legislation supported by the Northam Administration. House Bill 1993, sponsored by Delegates Alex Askew and Delores McQuinn, requires state agencies to establish and maintain comprehensive diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic plans in coordination with the Governor’s Chief Diversity Officer.
“The comprehensive emphasis on equity-minded legislation throughout the 2021 General Assembly session has been historic,” said Secretary of Administration Grindly Johnson. “This legislation makes Virginia a national exemplar in fostering the business case for organizational effectiveness in our state agencies.”
This plan was developed in collaboration with the Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM). Together with the ODEI, DHRM and an interdisciplinary volunteer executive steering team created an online toolkit for use by state agencies and other stakeholders to facilitate the implementation of individualized strategic plans that advance diversity and inclusive excellence. The next phase of the ONE Virginia Plan will focus on working with an initial cohort of 10 state agencies that provide direct support to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic to create agency-based strategic diversity and inclusion plans modeled after the statewide framework.
“The critical work of state government depends upon our ability to attract and retain a talented workforce that reflects the diversity of the Virginians we serve,” said DHRM Director Emily Elliott. “We charge all agency leaders to adopt the ONE Virginia Plan and subsequent Principles of Community to create an engaged workforce that leverages diversity as a strength, supports an inclusive work environment, and works in pursuit of policies and practices that hold each agency accountable for expanded access, success, and overall inclusive excellence.”
The ONE Virginia Plan and the online toolkit are available here. For more information about the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and its work, please visit governor.virginia.gov/diversity.
Shower Trailer update for Warren County’s Thermal Shelter guests
The shower trailer will be available to the guests of our local Thermal Shelter during the winter. It will also be available in case of disaster and for emergency personnel. In the past we have borrowed shower trailers from other counties. We are finally filling a high demand need!
The goal is to have three separate shower stalls installed. The trailer will be complete with hot water heaters and toiletries. Each stall will have it’s own door for privacy and convenience.
In the links below, there are items that are needed for purchase if you would like to help in lieu of a cash donation. Links provided by Robert Hupman, the man with the plan!
- 275 Gallon Water Tank
- Fold Up Step for 30″ Door
- Roll A Ramp – portable ramp 16ft L x 26″W – Fill your cart with this item: A12615A19 ($1,469.99)
Story provided to you by the Rotary Club of Warren County. To learn more about Rotary visit our website!
LFCC once again named a Military Friendly school for 2021-2022
LFCC has been recognized as a 2021-2022 Military Friendly ® School. Institutions earning the Military Friendly® School designation were evaluated using both public data sources and responses from a proprietary survey. This is LFCC’s 11th year of receiving the distinction.
The 2021-2022 Military Friendly® Schools list will be published in the May issue of G.I. Jobs magazine and can be found at www.militaryfriendly.com. Methodology, criteria, and weightings were determined by Viqtory with input from the Military Friendly® Advisory Council of independent leaders in the higher education and military recruitment community. Final ratings were determined by combining the institution’s survey response set and government/agency public data sources, within a logic-based scoring assessment. An institution’s ability to meet thresholds for student retention, graduation, job placement, loan repayment, persistence (degree advancement or transfer) and loan default rates for all students and, specifically, for student veterans, were measured.
“Our student veterans are resilient and focused,” said LFCC veteran academic advisor/certifying official Sharon Painter. “In this past year, our student veterans have learned to adapt to changing learning environments, maneuver through changes to Department of Veterans Affairs laws and manage pandemic constraints. They have stepped up to meet these challenges and continue to succeed in 2021.”
LFCC had particularly strong measurements when it came to the retention and graduation rates of our student veterans. According to Painter, the college had 230 veteran, active duty, reservist or National Guard students enrolled in the 2019-2020 academic year.
“Military Friendly® is committed to transparency and providing consistent data-driven standards in our designation process,” said Kayla Lopez, National Director of Military Partnerships, Military Friendly®. “This creates a competitive atmosphere that encourages colleges to consistently evolve and invest in their programs. Schools who achieve designation show true commitment and dedication in their efforts. Our standards assist schools by providing a benchmark that promotes positive educational outcomes, resources, and support services that better the educational landscape and provide opportunity for the military community.”
About Military Friendly ® Schools:
The Military Friendly ® Schools list is created each year based on extensive research using public data sources for more than 8,800 schools nationwide, input from student veterans, and responses to the proprietary, data-driven Military Friendly® Schools survey from participating institutions. The survey questions, methodology, criteria and weighting were developed with the assistance of an independent research firm and an advisory council of educators and employers. The survey is administered for free and is open to all postsecondary schools that wish to participate. Criteria for consideration can be found at www.militaryfriendly.com.
Founded in 2001, VIQTORY is a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) that connects the military community to civilian employment, educational and entrepreneurial opportunities through its G.I. Jobs® and Military Friendly® brands. VIQTORY and its brands are not a part of or endorsed by the U.S. Dept of Defense or any federal government entity. Learn more about VIQTORY at www.viqtory.com.
Town Talk: A conversation with John Hutchinson, Valley Conservation Council
In this Town Talk, our publisher Mike McCool speaks with John Hutchinson, President of the Valley Conservation Council (VCC) in Staunton, Virginia.
John joined VCC as Executive Director in 2020. John has been engaged in fundraising, development, and policy research related to land conservation and battlefield preservation in Virginia and nationally for more than 36 years. Most recently, John directed the land acquisition and conservation programs at the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation beginning in 2001. He has protected thousands of acres on Civil War battlefields in the Shenandoah Valley through donation, bargain sale, and fee purchase.
The Valley Conservation Council is a Staunton-based nonprofit that preserves and protects the natural resources of the greater Shenandoah Valley region, recently aimed its conservation expertise and has recently helped bring protection to almost 1,000 acres of mountain land adjacent to the Shenandoah National Park that will eventually become part of its borders. (See story here)
Town Talk is a series on the Royal Examiner where we will introduce you to local entrepreneurs, businesses, non-profit leaders, and political figures who influence Warren County. Topics will be varied but hopefully interesting. If you have an idea, topic, or want to hear from someone in our community, let us know. Send your request to news@RoyalExaminer.com
United Way following through on $5,500 pledge to Blue Ridge Legal Services
The United Way of Front Royal-Warren County is making good on its promise to support Blue Ridge Legal Services with $5,500 in grant funding for this fiscal year. Many positive results have been achieved from the $46,052 given by the United Way to Blue Ridge Legal Services over the past seven years, and the community has benefited from this partnership. The United way hopes to renew and increase its commitment to this organization in the coming years.
According to Jennifer Locke, the Managing Attorney for Blue Ridge Legal Services serving Front Royal-Warren County, COVID-19 forced some changes for the organization in 2020. For example, the legal clinic is no longer accepting in-person applications. Additionally, since June 2020, the clinic has experienced an increase in demand for services.
The three biggest issues that the clinic works with clients to resolve are Domestic Violence (45%), Evictions (30%), and Bankruptcy (20%). The clinic closed 41 cases in Front Royal-Warren County in 2020, aiding 121 residents during this process. They achieved $500 in lump-sum judgments, $800 in monthly benefits, and $97,293 in avoidance of claims/liability for the clients they serve. Additionally, they achieved three bankruptcy discharges, three prevented evictions, and two delayed evictions.
In working to increase its efforts in the community, the clinic has has hired an additional attorney to help serve Front Royal-Warren County. They were able to accomplish this using a grant from IKEA and a dollar-for-dollar match from the Virginia Governor’s Office.
If you would like to partner with the United Way as we work to support our partner agencies, please visit the DONATE page on our website. Since 1950, the United Way has worked to advance the common good in Front Royal-Warren County. The community wins when a child succeeds in school, when families are financially stable, and when people are healthy. The United Way’s goal is to create long-lasting change by addressing the underlying causes of the challenges we face. Living United means being part of the change!
To reach the United Way offices in Front Royal-Warren County (134-B Peyton Street, Front Royal, VA, 22630), please email email@example.com or call 540-635-3636.