A 22-year-old Virginia woman is claiming she was fired from her job as a social worker for the city of Roanoke because she has a concealed carry permit, but the city says that isn’t true.
Storm Durham posted her claim on social media Friday night and her posts quickly went viral. They were shared by influential right wing sites, along with conservatives with large followings, like Sarah Palin and Ted Nugent, and gun rights supporters and groups.
The city of Roanoke emailed a statement to Heavy in response to the social media posts, but are unable to get into specifics about Durham because it is a personnel matter.
“A former employee of the City of Roanoke recently posted via social media assertions regarding the basis of her dismissal from City employment. Her posting has also been reported in other media,” statement said. “The City does not publically comment on specific personnel matters. In light of these assertions, however, it is important to note that the City of Roanoke respects the Constitutional rights of its citizens and that the dismissal in question was not based upon anyone’s exercise of such rights.”
Here’s what you need to know about Storm Durham:
1. Durham Admits the City’s Termination Document Says She Was Fired for Performance Issues, for Arrogance, Attendance Problems & for Not Being Properly Dressed, Along With ‘Workplace Safety’ Reasons, but Disputes Those Claims
Storm Durham began working for the city of Roanoke as a child protective services investigator, according to a post on her Facebook page. She was still in her one-year probationary period at the Roanoke Department of Social Services when she was fired on Friday, March 9.
On social media, Durham claimed she was fired for having a CCW, but she did not provide any other details of her termination. But she admitted to The Roanoke Times the city listed several reasons for her firing on the termination document. The document stated there were performance issues during her first six months working for the city, that she was arrogant, did not pay attention during training, had attendance issues and was not properly dressed. Durham told the newspaper all of those claims were unfounded and said the document listed a concern about “workplace safety,” at the top.
Durham told the newspaper that she had “a few bumps in the road” during her time in the social services office. She said her trainer taught her a procedure that she followed, but she was reprimanded for following it by her supervisor. When she alerted the trainer, Durham said she received a “nasty email” calling her “sloppy and unprofessional.” She said her supervisor and the trainer “threw her under the bus.”
Durham also said she was given performance expectations to close cases at a faster pace and said she struggled to adjust to her caseload, but eventually exceeded expectations.
Durham said the issue of guns had previously been brought up with her at work. She tweeted, “I was called in my boss’s office around 2 months ago asking if I felt safe at home and if there is any DV bc it was brought to their attention we have guns in the home. LEGAL GUNS.”
On Instagram, Durham shared the story of her firing along with a picture of a handgun:
You can read her full Facebook post below:
I was fired today. I was fired by a Department of Virginia… Social Services the people who are supposed to be there to keep kids safe and develop families into better people for each other. I was fired today due to having a concealed carry permit. Was my gun on me? No. Has it ever been on me during my job, or visits, or anything related to work? No. When I told them that it has never been on me during work, what did they say? “How do we know that.” Search me. Do I have a criminal record? No. Do I, (yes the 22 year old blonde who is 5’2 and about 140 pounds who loves everything Disney, pink, and basic), come across as a threat to you? If you know me I’m pretty sure you’ve never been shaking in your boots due to my vary presence. But today, I was escorted by not one, not two, but three Roanoke City Police Officers to my office where I packed up months of thank you cards, and pictures of kids I’ve helped. I was escorted by officers who have been with me on visits where I placed a child with a relative due to risks, or when I was hugged by a child because they finally felt safe again. I was told to pack immediately and that I could not even use the bathroom to take a minute for myself because of my “serious safety concerns to the building.” I have a concealed carry permit. I own guns. I hunt. I target shoot. I represent Women hunters and outdoorswomen. Does that make me a criminal? Does that make me a safety risk to others? A big enough safety risk to be escorted by three Roanoke City Police officers? So scary and threatening that I need to be treated like a criminal? To be humiliated and looked down upon for owning a gun? For legally having a gun, registering that gun, and having the appropriate documentation for that gun?
The Constitution of the United States of America. The one document that has followed us for years, and will continue to be the power resource of all we do as Americans. The second amendment: the right to bear arms. The Roanoke City Department of Social Services should be ashamed of themselves. They should be publically known that they did this. That they fired a innocent, clean record, white, female, college graduate who works for a living for legally having, and owning a gun. That was NEVER on their property or in their building. A gun that was never used for evil, but as protection as I am a survivor or sexual assault. Protection for being that white, 22 year old, female. I am an American. A gun owner. And a proud sponsor of hunting across America, and I, nor my lawyers, judges, or support systems will rest until something is done. Until someone answers for punishing me and taking away my constitutional right.
According to The Roanoke Times, the city’s human resources director, Michele Vineyard, sent a memo to employees Monday, saying, “The actions taken by the City were not based upon the former employee’s right to hold a concealed carry permit for firearms. I want to emphasize that we have no policy or procedure limiting the right of employees to hold concealed carry permits as authorized by the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia. We respect and support the Constitutional rights of our employees as citizens.”
The Roanoke Police Department has not commented about Durham’s claim that three officers waited for her to clean out her office and then escorted her out of the building.
2. Since Her Tweet Went Viral, Durham Has Started a Fundraising Page, Launched a YouTube Channel, Appeared With a Controversial Virginia Politician & Has Given Several Media Interviews, but Says She Isn’t in It for ‘Fame or Money’
Storm Durham has posted several tweets and hosted multiple Facebook Live video sessions to talk about her firing since her original post. She has given several interviews to news organizations, ranging from the local newspaper and local news channels, to conservative news sites and gun advocacy radio shows. She also sat down with controversial Virginia politician Corey Stewart, who is seeking the Republican nomination to oppose Senator Tim Kaine, and has said she will be making an appearance soon on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends.” Durham launched a YouTube channel called “The Conservative Storm” and opened an account on a fundraising page.
But Durham told The Roanoke Times, “I’m not in this for fame or money of anything like that, but I wanted there to be public knowledge about how they treated me. She said she was fired “because of values that didn’t line up with theirs.”
Durham added, “I don’t want attention on myself, I want attention on what happened. I like sharing my story, and I feel like God maybe put something in my lap [so] I could maybe further my career … on a different career path.”
You can watch one of Durham’s Facebook live videos below:
Durham’s interview with Stewart can be seen here:
And you can listen to one of her radio shows below:
Durham has mentioned she’d like to be a spokesman for the NRA, and on her fundraising site, which was opened on the “free speech crowdfunding” website FreeStartr, she calls herself a spokeswoman for gun rights.
On the fundraising page, Durham wrote, “God. Guns. Concealed Carry. I was fired for having my concealed carry permit, not the gun but the permit. I am suing on discrimination charges for the City of Roanoke, Virginia. I was escorted by three police officers and treated like a criminal.”
On Facebook, she wrote, “I strive to promote positivity and the right of our 2nd amendment. I am a 22 year old, petite, blonde girl who wants to share her story and promote women in the gun industry. #StormWarning #TheConservativeStorm.”
3. Durham, Who Graduated From Roanoke College in 2017 With a Sociology Degree, Previously Worked for Craig County Social Services
Durham, whose full name is Chelsea Storm Durham, is a native of Fincastle, Virginia, a small town of about 350 people in rural Botetourt County, located 20 miles north of Roanoke. She graduated from Roanoke College in 2017 with a degree in sociology. After college, she worked for Craig County Social Services as a family services specialist from May 2017 until leaving that position to work for the city of Roanoke, according to her Linkedin profile.
While in college, she worked as a teaching fellow at Roanoke Catholic School and as a lead teacher at Mini World Child Care. She was also an intern for Roanoke County Court Services and a student employee for Roanoke College Campus Safety, where she worked in the dispatch center. She has also worked as a coach at the Prestige Gymnastics Academy since 2012.
She has said on social media that she wants to be teacher, but took the job in social services because it was the first position available to her and she has student loans to pay off and she has to pass exams to earn a teaching certification.
Durham, who is seen in camo on her Facebook page shooting guns, hunting and fishing with her boyfriend, Will Bowling, told The Roanoke Times she began hunting and fishing when she was nine and her grandfather owned a gun shop. She said she was a competitive cheerleader in high school and at Roanoke College and served on the college’s academic integrity and student conduct councils. She was also a member of the Sigma Alpha Omega sorority.
4. She Was the Editor in Chief of a Student-Run News & Opinion Website, Where She Wrote Several Articles About Her Political Views & Guns
While at Roanoke College, Durham was the editor in chief of the student-run news and opinion site The Odyssey. She wrote posts like “Being a Christian in College,” along with other posts about college and sorority life and being in Roanoke. The Odyssey is a national site that hosts local communities at colleges around the country, using student volunteers as writers and editors.
She also wrote a post defending the “Don’t Tread on Me Flag,” in which she says the “War of 1861,” was not about slavery.
“Every time I log into Facebook, turn on the news, or even drive down the street I feel like I am walking into middle school all over again. The way I have to walk on eggshells, and watch everything I say in fear that I may offend someone,” she wrote. “The stares I get at restaurants when I stop to pray before I begin to eat, or the rude looks I get when you notice my concealed carry, and the eye rolls we get as our ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ flag flies proudly off our front porch. The amount of times I am criticized on social media, in class, or even at the grocery store for being a white, Christian, pro-gun, pro-hunt, pro-life, proud American is absurd.”
Her political posts have led to some criticism from the right. She wrote a post in January 2016 about “feeling the Bern,” and another in October 2016 about being a Republican, but “for her,” referencing Hillary Clinton. But, according to a post on her Facebook page, she eventually settled on voting for Donald Trump.
“I’ve lost all respect for professors who sit in class talking about the election and just assuming everyone voted for Clinton. Trump won, obvi everyone didn’t vote for her. Just because I voted Trump does not mean I am a racist, white supremacist, LGBTQ hater, anti-woman or anything you think of me,” she wrote in November 2016. “I voted for Trump yes, and if you give me a chance to logically sit down and talk to you and tell you my reasoning I’ll be glad to as long as you don’t yell at me and tell me how racist or wrong I am. if ‘Love Trumps Hate’ I am definitely not seeing it from Clinton supporters. If there needs to be a safe place for people scared of trump supporters there needs to be a safe place for trump voters from being called racist and labeled.”
5. Durham, Who Says She Has Received Angry Messages & Death Threats Along With Messages of Support, Plans to Sue the City
Durham told The Roanoke Times she plans to file a lawsuit against the city of Roanoke. Durham is working with attorneys supplied by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a Second Amendment advocacy group, according to the newspaper.
“I’m ready to fight it,” Durham told the newspaper.
She told the newspaper she has received some negative comments, along with support. “I’ve been told to go die,” she said, adding that she has been mocked for her looks and high-pitched voice. She said she has been most hurt by comments telling her she shouldn’t be allowed around children.
Durham has also responded to rumors that a friend brought a gun to her office to confront one of her co-workers, saying that is untrue. She also denied that she threw tantrums and fits in the office.
Snopes.com’s fact check, which declared Durham’s claims about why she was fired to be false, posted a now-deleted Facebook post from a man claiming to have knowledge of why she was fired, who said she didn’t report it when her friend threatened her co-worker with a gun. Durham said that is not true and the friend being described in that post only came to the social services office twice, both times to help her carry her bags when she had crutches because of a broken ankle.
On Twitter, Durham said she is “suing for every penny.”
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