Five teenage boys who spray-painted swastikas, vulgar images and “White Power” slogans on a historic black school in Virginia received sentences meant to educate them about hate crimes, the Washington Post reported.
The boys, who are all 16 or 17, pleaded guilty to destruction of property and unlawful entry from the Sept. 30 incident. Judge Avelina Jacob in Loudoun County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court sentenced them to read books from a list that includes works by prominent black, Jewish and Afghan authors. They also must write a research paper on hate speech and go to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and listen to an interview with a former student of the Ashburn Colored School, the building they defaced. The school taught Loudoun County’s black children from 1892 until the 1950s.
Deputy Commonwealth Attorney Alex Rueda told the Post that the boys could benefit from understanding the devastating power of hate speech.
"It really seemed to be a teachable moment. None of them seemed to appreciate — until all of this blew up in the newspapers — the seriousness of what they had done," Rueda told the Post.
The boys targeted the building because it is owned by the Loudoun School for the Gifted, and one boy had left the private school on unfavorable terms, Rueda said. “So it really seemed to be an opportunity to teach them about race, religion, discrimination, all of those things.”
Before the vandalism, students at the Loudoun School for the Gifted had been working to restore the site so it could serve as a reminder of the county’s segregated past.
The slurs painted there devastated the students who had started the meticulous restoration work and were raising money through bake sales and yard sales to fund the project.
The reading list includes “The Beautiful Struggle,” the memoir of Ta-Nehisi Coates; and “Night,” Elie Wiesel’s account of the Auschwitz concentration camp. It also included two works by Afghan author Khaled Hosseini and other important works by Alice Walker and Toni Morrison.
The boys also were sentenced to write a report that will be “a research paper explaining the message that swastikas and white power messages on African American schools or houses of worship send to the African American community as well as the broader community, which includes other minority groups,” Jacob said in his sentencing.
If the boys complete their sentences, their cases will be dismissed, the Post reported.
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