Five teenagers who vandalized a historic school in Ashburn, Virginia, with obscene images and racist messages have been ordered to visit the Holocaust Museum and read books written by black, Jewish and Afghan authors.
The teens pleaded guilty to one count of destruction of property and one count of unlawful entry, the Loudoun County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office said.
Last October, the teens spray painted swastikas and phrases such as "White Power" 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.
Despite the nature of the graffiti, the Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman said the teens' "motivations had nothing to do with bigotry or hatred toward any class of people."
Three of the five teens are minorities, according to the Loudoun County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office.
The teens “did not appreciate the significance or the meaning of what they were drawing on the building,” Plowman said. “Because of this, we are seizing the opportunity to treat this as an educational experience for these young men so they may better appreciate the significance of their actions.”
During a year-long probationary period, the teens will complete a series of assignments designed to teach them about the history of racial and religious discrimination.
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 approved books that includes titles like “The Color Purple,” "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.