*The five teenagers who pled guilty last week to vandalizing a historic African-American schoolhouse in Virginia with swastikas have been hit with a reading list as part of their punishment.
In early October, the racist teens spray-painted swastikas, along with the words “white power” and other symbols on the Old Ashburn School. Also known as the Ashburn Colored School, the 19th century building was used to educate local African-American children up until the 1960s.
The teens pled guilty last week, but instead of jail time, the judge gave them a multi-media style punishment designed to rehabilitate more than punish.
First, the teens will have to visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and an exhibit on the internment of Japanese-Americans at the National Museum of American History.
The teens will also have to write one book report each month from a list of books from black, Jewish and Afghan writers that includes titles like The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Native Son by Richard Wright, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, To Kill a Mockingbird and Night.
Each teen will also have to write a research paper explaining the impact of swastikas and white power messages on African-American communities, including references to KKK lynchings, the Nazi “final solution” and several landmark court cases that expanded or limited civil rights for African Americans.
Finally, the teens must listen to a recorded interview with a woman who attended the Ashburn Colored School from 1938 to 1945.
Their cases will be reviewed again in January 2018.
Prosecutor Alex Rueda told NPR Sunday that the group who vandalized the building didn’t seem to realize its significance to African American history. “What I can tell you about them is that three of them were minorities. Two of them were white. But none of them knew that it was a school,” Rueda said. “None of them knew that it was a historic property. They all thought it was just this abandoned shed.”
Rueda explained that the kids didn’t seem to have an understanding of the significance of their actions until it was reported in the newspaper and based on the larger community’s response. She continued, “You really have to understand that the juvenile brain is very different than the adult brain. And juveniles don’t understand and appreciate the consequences of their actions.”
“So I wanted them to read about oppression all over the world. And, I mean, I want them to understand that this can happen anywhere and that these kinds of symbols can be very, very hurtful.”