When five boys spray-painted a historic black school in Ashburn, Virginia, with swastikas, “WHITE POWER” and vulgar images, they were motivated more by teenage naivete than by racial hatred, a Loudoun County prosecutor concluded.
Three of the boys are minorities themselves, and one also marked the walls with “BROWN POWER.” None had previous troubles with the law.
So Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Alex Rueda prepared an unusual sentence recommendation meant to educate them on the meaning of hate speech in the hope that they come to understand the effect their behavior had on the community.
The boys, who are all 16 or 17, have been sentenced to read books from a list that includes works by prominent black, Jewish and Afghan authors, write a research paper on hate speech, go to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and listen to an interview with a former student of the Ashburn Colored School, which they defaced. The school taught the county’s black children from 1892 until the 1950s, a period during which they were barred from attending school with white students.