Five teenagers who pleaded guilty on Wednesday to spray painting swastikas and "WHITE POWER" on a historic black schoolhouse in Virginia were hit with an unusual punishment: visiting the Holocaust museum and reading the works of black and Jewish authors.
The teens, who are all 16 and 17, were sentenced to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and an exhibit at the American History Museum about the executive order which allowed for Japanese internment, according to a statement from the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, which noted that three of the five come from a "minority class." They will also be required to listen to an interview with Yvonne Thornton Neal, a former student of the school they defaced, and write a book report a month from a list of 35 books by prominent black, Afghan, and Jewish authors including Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, and Elie Wiesel's Night.
The building the teens defaced was once home to the Ashburn Old School, one of the few places that would educate black students in Virginia from 1892 to 1959. Despite the vandalism last September, efforts are still underway to restore the historic school.
The sentence, which was recommended by Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Alex Rueda, aims to educate the boys about the effect hate speech has on a community.
“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 Washington Post.
If the teens complete the assignments, their cases will be dismissed, the statement said.