FRONT ROYAL – At its March 7 monthly meeting the Warren County School Board, administrative staff and several parents discussed the hot-button topic of school safety three weeks after the Parkland, Florida semi-automatic rifle shooting that left 17 students and teachers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School dead and 17 more wounded. The Valentine’s Day school massacre in Florida and the aggressive activism launched by student survivors of Stoneman Douglas High School has intensified the gun law debate nationally.
One week later on Wednesday, March 14, exactly a month after the Parkland, Florida school shooting, 242 students left four county public schools in support of a national student remembrance of the Parkland victims and a call for stricter gun control laws. The demonstrations were slated to begin across the nation at 10 a.m. in each time zone and last for 17 minutes, one minute for each Douglas High victim.
School Superintendent Greg Drescher said the head count of participating students was 120 at Skyline Middle School, 80 at Skyline High School, 30 at Warren County High School, and 12 at Warren County Middle School. He said the school system neither discouraged nor encouraged the event, adding that students who did participate will face no disciplinary consequence for their action. The two high schools have approximate student populations of 800 each; the middle schools about 600 students each.
“Some people were offended by it, but for me it was more of a respect thing with 17 minutes of silence for the 17 victims in Florida,” Skyline High sophomore Sophia Conrow said of her participation.
“We want to give students an opportunity to express their opinions and for some it was really, really important to participate,” Drescher observed, adding, “But we want it understood that education is our primary function, so it’s not something we would expect to occur every week. But we’ll continue a dialogue so our kids understand our perspective that disrupting class may not be the best way – and I think the kids understand that.”
A week earlier at the school board meeting, several parents addressed the issue of what Warren County Public Schools are doing to address the ongoing public danger of mass shootings that have all too frequently targeted schools. The discussion spanned the meeting from public participation at its outset to an informal discussion after the meeting’s official adjournment.
The latter conversation came when several people unfamiliar with the meeting format rose to ask if they might speak to the matter following the adjournment. Drescher invited the parents forward to continue discussion of the topic.
Letasha Thompson was first to address the issue during the public participation segment near the meeting’s outset. Among her comments Thompson suggested metal detectors be placed on school doors throughout the system as one immediately-available safety implementation. During the later, post-meeting informal discussion Chris and Melissa Cubbage and Mike Mayer added their thoughts.
Mayer, who said he had a daughter at Ressie Jeffries Elementary, made an interesting suggestion on a middle ground this reporter had yet to hear on the idea of arming teachers. That idea was arming some school staff with what he called “bear” or “wasp spray” – essentially a mace designed to shoot a tight stream as far as 30 feet, and which he observed would blind and drop a human to his knees at that distance.
An ongoing concern appeared to be that locking classroom doors and telling students “to get down and hide” may not be enough. And Drescher’s earlier remarks on school safety during his Superintendent’s Report indicated school administrators may be on the same page.
Drescher opened his report on school safety by observing, “The recent school shooting in Florida sparked a series of threats across our nation” before launching into a summary of threats dealt with by Warren County Public Schools on February 21-22, a week after the Parkland school shooting. During his report Drescher noted that school officials and law enforcement have already met several times in recent weeks to review the system’s emergency procedures and see what kind of improvements can be made. He also pointed to an increased law enforcement presence “at all our schools” including an added sheriff’s deputy’s presence during school lunch hours.
Drescher added that he believed procedures in place “were good” and would be implemented if necessary by “good people” but did add that he would be making “further recommendations” in the near future.
Of the threats to Warren County Public Schools previously reported on by Royal Examiner, Drescher noted that it had eventually been determined the February 21st social media post against “SHS” that led to searches of everyone entering Skyline High School the following day had originated in Ohio and was not targeting Warren County’s SHS. – “I imagine that SHS’s across the country dealt with this,” Drescher said.
The system also dealt with a threat made against Warren County High School and two directed at Warren County Middle School, the latter situation leading to the evacuation of the middle school the morning of February 22.
“Our crisis plans were initiated and the evacuation, subsequent searches all went well. I want to thank our students for handling it so well; our parents for coming through a scary situation; our schools’ staff that did a fantastic job at all levels; and all the law enforcement that supported us,” Drescher said.
“In the cases of all these threats we know who did them. In no case was the threat a real threat. I would define them all as individuals saying very foolish things. All have been turned over to law enforcement and all have gone through our disciplinary procedures; and we have followed our threat assessment and mental health assessments as appropriate,” the school superintendent reported.
And so it goes locally and nationally in the eighteenth year of the 21st Century.
National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day – Flags to be flown half-staff
This December 7, we remember the world-changing event known as Pearl Harbor Day, or as President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his December 8, 1941 speech declaring war on Japan, “a date which will live in infamy.”
Early on Wednesday morning, December 7, 2022, many will gather at Pearl Harbor National Memorial for the 81st Commemoration. The early start marks the moment to the minute 81 years ago when Japanese warplanes descended on Oahu, killing 2,403 service members and civilians, injuring thousands more, and dealing a near-fatal blow to the Navy’s fleet at Pearl Harbor.
Most young Americans who died that day, along with those who served in uniform during World War II or on the home front war effort, are collectively known as the Greatest Generation. Their sacrifices reflect the theme of this year’s Commemoration: Everlasting Legacy.
The focus is the importance of remembering Pearl Harbor and how the Greatest Generation saved us from tyranny and brought us peace through reconciliation.
Governor’s Order for the Commonwealth of Virginia
In accordance with the authority vested in me as Governor, I hereby order that the flags of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia to be flown at half-staff at all local, state, and federal buildings and grounds in the Commonwealth in solemn respect and memory for the nearly 4,000 American service men and women killed or wounded in the early morning of December 7, 1941, at the United States Navy Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
I hereby order that the flag shall be lowered at sunrise on Wednesday, December 7, 2022, and remain at half-staff until sunset.
Ordered on this, the 6th day of December 2022.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: American Goldfinch
These two American Goldfinches hit the same window at the same time and ended up here at the Center for care.
Though both are currently having breathing difficulty, and the male has significant head trauma with bleeding from the left ear, neither sustained any fractures. They are recovering together while they receive supplemental oxygen and pain medications.
Do you know what to do if a bird hits your window?
Though it was once standard to contain a window strike bird and let it rest for a few hours before attempting release, research has now shown that this is inadequate. Many of the issues we see with window strikes manifest 24+ hours after the strike, long after the bird can fly off.
If you see a bird hit a window, contain it right away and call the closest permitted rehabilitator. Do not release it! In the meantime, take steps to break up the reflections on your windows with tape, paint, or decals spaced no more than 2” apart. Prevention is better than treatment!
A new record!
Yesterday we surpassed last year’s intake number with this window strike pair. We are hopeful that they will soon be released together to enjoy the rest of their wild lives!
If you are looking for an easy way to help native wildlife become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.
Local grandma steps out of shower, holds intruder at gunpoint until police arrive
A Warren County family had an exciting Monday morning after the family’s matriarch thwarted an intruder who may have intended to steal a family vehicle.
Tricia Montoney told Royal Examiner Monday evening that an eagle-eyed neighbor noticed a man in the family’s driveway, around 7 a.m. standing beside a Ford F-150 pickup truck belonging to Tricia’s daughter, Rachel Montoney.
Rachel said in a phone interview that “once our neighbor told me about the man attempting to enter my vehicle, I ran to get my mom.”
Tricia was in the shower but quickly put on a robe and grabbed the Smith and Wesson 9 mm handgun she keeps for personal protection. She then went outside to confront the intruder. By then, she said, the man was sitting inside the pickup with the door closed.
Rachel says her mom yelled to the intruder, “What are you doing? Get out of the truck and on your knees!” The man, later identified by arresting officers as Larry Huyser, exited the truck and complied with Tricia’s instructions while a neighbor called 9-1-1.
Huyser, who was dressed in a fluorescent green sweatshirt, jeans, and a black hat, said that he had gotten into the unlocked truck “because I was cold.”
Warren County deputies who arrived on the scene found Tricia holding Huyser at gunpoint. He was taken into custody without incident.
Huyser was booked into the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail (RSW) and charged with vandalism, damaging property, tampering and entering a vehicle, and breaking and entering an auto.
He is being held without bond. Online court records show that Huyser has been arrested before for similar offenses.
Both Tricia and Rachel expressed their gratitude for their neighbor and his assistance in contacting the police and for staying with Tricia as she held the intruder at gunpoint.
The Montoneys also appreciated the deputies, who arrived quickly and transported the intruder to RSW.
Asked if she would now lock her truck at night, Rachel said, “Absolutely!”
Both ladies expressed their gratitude that no one was injured and said they were especially grateful for their close friendship with their neighbors. “We take care of each other out here,” Tricia said.
Congressman Ben Cline holds Town Hall meeting in Warren County
Residents of Warren County were invited to a town hall event with Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06) on December 5, 2022. This town hall event was an opportunity for residents of Warren County to engage in a dialogue with Rep. Cline about important issues in Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District.
Watch the Town Hall meeting on this exclusive Royal Examiner video.
Frederick County Sheriff’s Office deputies help rescue horse after fall into pool
On December 2, 2022, Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Deputy’s responded to a residence on Green Springs Rd. in Frederick County. This was regarding an 1800-pound draft horse that fell into a swimming pool. Once on the scene Deputies determined that the horse had knocked over the top rail of the fence around the pool, jumped the fence and walked out onto the nylon pool cover causing the horse to fall into the water. However, its head and part of the body remained above water.
The Draft Horse was in the 9-foot end of the pool. Deputies Cram, ACO Deputy Tasker and Sgt. Hawse started cutting the pool cover away from the horse. Once it was clear of the cover and haltered, the horse was pulled to the shallow end of the pool where it was able to stand and catch its breath. Deputies were able to guide the horse up the stairs to the pool deck and into the yard.
The Veterinarian who handles the horse was called and advised to dry the horse as good as possible, feed it hay and keep it moving. That information was passed on to the owner’s children that arrived on scene. At the time of this email the horse was doing fine.
“You just never know what type of calls we respond to every day. This is one for the books. We are happy that it was witnessed, and we could respond to assist. Deputies were ready to go in the water if needed to make sure the horse stayed above water,” Sheriff Lenny Millholland observed of the incident.
Local doctors take time out to again treat third world country residents of Honduras
For the past 14 years, local Dr. Thomas (call me “Tommy”) Ball has ducked out of Front Royal Family Practice to spend up to two weeks leading a medical team to serve the people of Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Dr. Ball – okay, we’ll call him Tommy from here on – has always considered serving the under-served a core mission of his medical practice. For the past 20 years Valley Health has recognized and supported that mission as part of his faculty position at the Shenandoah Valley Family Practice Residency. “Valley Health recognizes that young doctors want to understand Global Health and want to contribute internationally. They allow me to devote time as a teacher to global health issues and they support our work overseas,” he told us.
Medical faculty from around Virginia have formed a nonprofit organization, SAGE (Students And Global Engagement), focused on introducing trainees to a small community in rural Honduras. As Tommy describes it, “We attempt to foster better health among the Hondurans and to expose Americans to the needs people face in a third world setting. It is a two-way street in which both parties benefit.”
SAGE helped build a small mountainside clinic in the village of Pinares, Honduras. They send medical teams for one to two-week stretches three times a year at four-month intervals. The area they serve is approximately the size of Warren County, with similar mountainous terrain. Average take-home pay for the mostly agricultural workers around Pinares is about $3-dollars a day (yes, a day, emphasized Ball).
Medication, some donated by Valley Health, helps patients cope with a variety of diseases including familiar problems such as diabetes, hypertension and arthritis, as well as problems uncommon here such as parasites caused by contaminated water. SAGE tries to go beyond just medication and address the underlying social factors that foster illness. In recent years they have donated monthly food packages to families with young children and filters to improve the safety of drinking water.
This fall the team included Dr. Paulius Mui and Dr. Sean Sutphen from the residency training program and seasoned local physician Dr. Shyama Rosenfeld, as well as support personnel in pharmacy, emergency transport, and anthropology.
Tommy has developed close ties and friendships in the community SAGE serves. He notes that he is older than most volunteers, but hopes he still has a few more years left of visiting and doing his best to improve health conditions in Pinares. “We have the personnel who want to help, but we are always struggling financially,” Tommy said, hoping that local service clubs and other non-profits might see their way to help support SAGE.
If you, the reader, are interested and require additional information, email Tommy at Front Royal Family Practice (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the SAGE website (sage-community.com). And yes, you may call him Tommy!